Arbitrary Detention of Mexican Citizens by Mexican Immigration Authorities


On 3 September 2015, Mexican immigration authorities detained four Indigenous Tzeltal Mexicans who were travelling by bus to the northern state of Sonora. Despite identifying themselves as Mexican citizens, the authorities considered their documents false, and they were detained for nine days until their identities were certified. The Mexican State took four years to acknowledge publicly and apologise for this arbitrary detention. Similarly, in 2017, a 39‑year‑old man born in Oaxaca, living in the streets of Puebla after being deported by the United States Government, was detained for being ‘identified’ as a Salvadorian citizen by Mexican authorities. However, it would be a mistake to consider these cases an exception or anomaly in the Mexican Transit Control Regime. Drawing on statistical and archival information from 2010 to 2020, as well as semi-structured interviews conducted in 2021, in this article, we examine the arbitrary detention of Mexican citizens by Mexican immigration authorities. We highlight the multiple rights violated, question how these detentions have been framed in the official discourse and examine the outcome of these detentions. Our analysis sheds light on the racialisation of migration control in Mexico.

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Published: 2023-06-01
Pages:47 to 58
Section:Special Issue. Southern Perspectives on Border Criminology
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How to Cite
Campos-Delgado, A. . . and Yrizar Barbosa, G. . . (2023) “Arbitrary Detention of Mexican Citizens by Mexican Immigration Authorities”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 12(2), pp. 47-58. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2890.

Author Biographies

Leiden University

Amalia Campos-Delgado is Assistant Professor in Law & Society at the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society at Leiden University. She holds a BA in Anthropology, a MRes in Sociocultural Studies, and a PhD in Politics from Queen’s University Belfast. During 2019 was Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology at the Université de Montréal. Her research interests include border securitisation, externalisation of borders, and migration-control bureaucracies.

Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla

Guillermo Yrizar Barbosa is a professor and researcher on migration affairs in the Ignacio Ellacuría Human Rights Institute, at Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla. He received a PhD in sociology and demography certificate from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Before moving back to Mexico, he was a fellow at the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research and data manager at Baruch College.