Yesterday, Friday January 24th, was our annual USA citizens’ town hall meeting at the Hotel Playa at 11 am. Several people have asked us for a report. Please allow us to summarize here on the site what we heard yesterday. Feel free to add in what we’ve missed, or to correct something you may have heard differently!
John, our wonderful consular officer, was here from Hermosillo, accompanied by Rob, the security officer, and Ian, also from their office, who’s been filling in a bit for Luís Ramirez while he’s out of town. Heather and Lety, our local consular office staff members, received a big round of applause, as did Luís in absentia. Adriana from our local office of Migración gave a short presentation, interpreted by Isa Medina. No one from Aduana/Customs attended. Iván Pico from the Mayor’s office was present, but was not asked to speak.
The meeting last about 90 minutes, and was well attended, though there were fewer people than in prior years (maybe 150 people?). John gave an overall report and then asked for questions, as did Ian and Rob. Last up was Adriana.
The meeting is primarily a chance for our consular staff to meet with and hear from US residents and visitors. This year not a lot of new information was shared, since there seems to have been pretty good communication throughout the year. Some interesting highlights included that:
- John asked for a show of hands for how many present had lived in Mazatlán less than five years, more than five, more than ten, etc. Most present have lived here over five years. The person present who has resided here the longest was Khacho, of JungleJuice fame, who said she’s lived in Mazatlán for 39 years. Only two or three hands were raised by people who had lived here fewer than five years. Interesting. Not sure if newer immigrants just didn’t attend the meeting or hadn’t heard about it.
- Rob and John both congratulated our governor for all the hard work he’s done to stem violence in our state as well as to change perceptions of violence here. Everyone agreed all is much calmer than it was for a while. In response to a request that the officials present do all in their power to stem the tide of sensationalistic State Department reports, Rob explained about the “double standard” law on the books in the US. It states that if any officer of the US government cautions any employee about safety protocol, that same message must be shared with all US citizens. Rob said that while the intent of the law is good, that’s why we get so many warnings that may seem silly or overly cautionary. Interesting to know; puts things in context a bit.
- Adriana from Mexican Immigration read the definitions and prices for the top three visa categories, with Isa interpreting. There were two main lines of questions for Adriana.
- The first was about how to renew visas. Such information is publicly available, and Adriana patiently attempted to answer audience members’ questions. It was obvious that too many rumors are going around about changes in visa status, that those in the room who have renewed visas are comfortable with the new process, and that accurate information on this topic is available online as well as in the Immigration office, so expatriates are encouraged to go to the source rather than believing or passing on hearsay. Towards the end of that discussion, 15 minutes were spent on personal inquiries, which John ably redirected to private discussions upon conclusion of the larger group meeting.
- The second line of questions for Adriana was around car importation, which of course is a matter for Customs and not for Immigration, and thus outside her area of expertise. She did clarify that local Aduana can not register cars that are supposed to leave the country and reenter; the local Customs office doesn’t have the necessary software nor authorization. Such can only be done by Customs at the border. O’Neal asked for an update on Luis’ efforts to get a representative of Aduana from the border down here, explaining that we have many retirees in Sinaloa and Nayarit who are no longer able to make the long trek of driving their cars to the border to re-register them, and others whose cars are so old that they are not mechanically fit enough to make it to the border for re-registration. John and Ian promised they would ask Luís about it. Several of those in attendance assured the audience that importing an auto is not really that difficult; most of the paperwork can be done through email prior to heading north. There are customs agents who are professional and speak English. One of our readers, Kitty Krohne, tells us, “We imported two vehicles. It was very straightforward….actually it was easier then getting the plaques here. If I can help or share more info with anyone I will certainly be happy to do so. You are welcome to pm me.”
- Quite a bit of discussion was had around the need for residents to check in and out when they leave the country. While the process at the airport is streamlined, land crossing is met with much confusion on the part of the foreign community. It was clarified that if leaving on Highway 15, one should check out and in at the 21KM checkpoint, even if they have no automobile-related business to tend to. It was pointed out that an official request to the Mexican government has been made to install signage for northbound travelers, and to improve traffic safety at this point. Adriana pointed out that there will be circumstances where checking in or out is not possible, with the example being any foreigner who travels overnight on a bus. The response to this was the familiar, ni modo.
- An inquiry was made about U.S. Notary services while Luís is out of town. It was pointed out by John that the Hermosillo office was sending officers down as needed to deal with this and other necessary work. If U.S. Notary service is necessary, one should check with Heather or Lety to see when such service will be available.
- A brief discussion around mordidas, or bribes to police officers, included a show of hands of who has been “shaken down” and who has not. Fortunately, very few have ever encountered issues. Those that do are asked to do their best to get the patrol car number, note the day and time, and report all to Iván Pico at the Mayor’s office.
Not so much to report. It was good to see everyone. I believe you all join me in gratitude that John and his staff hold these annual Town Hall meetings for us. Also many thanks to Lance at the Hotel Playa for donating use of a large salón for this purpose.
On a personal note, let’s all remember that we are guests in Mexico. Mexico is a sovereign nation free to change laws that affect us without consulting us or the U.S. Government. While we can ask our government representatives to explain what they believe is going on and ask them to inform their Mexican counterparts of our concerns, Mexico is under no obligation to heed such input. Mexicans are the first to admit that some of their laws and procedures are outdated, inefficient and nonsensical. Such is true in most countries. But we are obligated to follow those laws and we have no right or expectation that our government can change things. Expecting otherwise will most likely only get one frustrated.