Tuesday, February 25, 2014

South of the Border

In 1980, when I was married and living in Los Angeles, my wife and I took a trip to Club Med in Playa Blanca, Mexico. We boarded a 707 passenger jet, chartered by a travel agency, on a Friday night bound for Manzanillo.

To my surprise, the plane landed in La Paz on the Baja Peninsula where each passenger was given a card by the stewardess and told to fill it out. Then we all disembarked from the plane, stood in line in the terminal, handed the cards to a customs agent, got back on the plane and eventually took off for our original destination.

Apparently, this exercise in inefficiency was standard procedure for entering Mexico. Even though no one got on or off at La Paz, it was a "port of entry" into the country so we had to go through this bureaucratic absurdity.

While my ex-wife always seemed to enjoy our travels, this sort of nonsense generally caused my blood to exceed the boiling point of tungsten. But it's nothing compared to the rigors involved in moving to Mexico.

A director with SW Bell in St. Louis recently posted an Internet account of his ordeal in relocating to Mexico.

In order to receive a permanent work visa, called an FM3, the man had to submit the following original items:

1) Birth certificate (plus his wife's birth certificate)
2) Marriage certificate
3) High school transcripts and proof of graduation
4) College transcripts and proof of graduation
5) Two letters of recommendation from supervisors he had worked for at least one year
6) A letter from the Chief of Police of St. Louis indicating he had no arrest record, no outstanding warrants and was "a citizen in good standing"
7) He also had to personally write a letter about himself clearly stating why there was no Mexican citizen with his skills and explain why his skills were important to Mexico.

The above documents then had to be certified as legal transactions, notarized and translated into Spanish.

Next, he and his wife spent five hours, accompanied by a Mexican lawyer, visiting various government offices where they were photographed and fingerprinted three different times. At four separate locations, they were instructed on Mexican tax law, Mexican labor law, Mexican housing law and Mexican criminal law. The couple paid out a total of $4,000 in fees (and bribes) to complete the process.

They were required to obtain a Mexican driver's license. Once again, photographed and fingerprinted. They were instructed that if ever stopped by a policeman to never give their driver's license to the policeman (instead, hold it against the inside of the window) otherwise they would have to pay a ransom to get it back.

At that point, the man was issued a "permanent" FM3 work visa, which was good for three years and renewal for two more years after paying additional fees. Hell hath no fury like a bureaucracy scorned.

As U.S. citizens, the couple was not allowed to purchase a home and required to rent in compliance with Mexican law. In addition, to submit their annual Mexican income tax required about 20 legal-size pages.

The U.S. Congress is currently working on new immigration legislation that may include some improved security across the southern border, temporary work permits for Mexican laborers, etc. However, the Mexican government is opposed to any such legislation because they consider it to be an insult and inconvenience to their people.

Note to the Mexican government -- Life is a two-way street and convenience isn't exactly your specialty.

The USA needs seasonal Mexican laborers (jobs most Americans won't do) and the laborers need the work.

There must be a simple solution to this problem, but adding more government bureaucracy probably isn't it.

In an imperfect world, where fruit grows on trees, there are growers and pickers and consumers; and those whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make it more difficult for everyone to venture from Point A to Point B.


Quote for the Day -- “The greatest power of bureaucracies is to make the smart act stupid and the good to act evil.” Raul Ramos

Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and rarely ventures from Point A to Point B unless it's absolutely necessary.

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