Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ilegales no son criminales

Down Mexico way:

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico — On a Thanksgiving visit in 1997, Deb Turpin fell in love with San Miguel de Allende, with its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and invested in two vacation rentals, Casa del Sol and Casa Vista. She rents out the houses — with cook and maid — on the Internet.

Turpin, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., is one of thousands of North Americans doing business or living in Mexico without the proper documentation. The number of foreigners running underground businesses in tourist areas is a growing concern for local officials because they often skirt paying fees and taxes.

....Foreign architects, musicians, engineers, accountants and others work in the town without permits, [ Christopher Finkelstein Franyuti, San Miguel de Allende's coordinator of international relations. ] said. "They know that they are not paying taxes, and that is why they don't advertise exactly."

He's estimated that unlicensed business in the city costs the local government 4 million pesos — more than $360,000 — a year in lost taxes and fees.

....Undocumented Americans occasionally are caught working in restaurants, bars and clothing shops in San Miguel and can be kicked out of the country, but the numbers are low. Mexico deported nearly 1,000 Americans last year....

Mexican immigration agents aren't interested in going after tourists who overstay their visa or retirees who forgot to fill out the proper forms, said Hipolito Trevino Lecea, commissioner of the National Migration Institute.

Trevino said undocumented residents on both sides of the border were basically an administrative problem, not a criminal problem. Americans who are targeted for deportation probably were involved in some criminal activity, he said.

"The fundamental difference in economic terms is, in general, when a North American comes to Mexico to live he is making an investment," the Harvard-educated economist said.

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