Mexican/U.S. Extradition Laws… A Moral Mess?

By: Lisa Coleman

Twice in the last three weeks, a drunk driver killed innocent people on Arizona roads. The first, a 25-year old police officer, the second a 16-year old high school student. Both of the drunk drivers were in this country illegally from Mexico. Both of these men had blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit. Both men had previously been sent back to Mexico for illegally being in the United States. Both men are being held without bond in an Arizona jail with charges of second degree murder. The press has had a field day, and rightly so. The issue of illegal immigration is a daily occurrence, especially for those of us living in border states.

These men will now fight to return to their homes in Mexico to face the law in their homeland. They were anxious enough to get here, but now can’t wait to get home. Hummm. Just so you know the way this lays out – the Extradition Treaty between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Signed by President Jimmy Carter, 1978, Effective 1980) allows:
“Mexico to try fugitives for crimes committed in a foreign territory by or against a Mexican citizen.”

What that means, is if these guys go home, chances are they will never see a courtroom as we know it. According to, “Mexican Federal law is based on the Napoleonic Code.  There is no presumption of innocence, no jury trial, and traditional common law and statutory rules of evidence don’t apply.  All trials are conducted by affidavit or declaration and witnesses rarely, if ever, testify in open court.  Victims and their families have no practical ability to witness the trial or be heard at sentencing which is controlled by the Mexican Federal Penal Code.  Although the maximum sentence in Mexico is a term of sixty years for murder, a sentence can, and frequently is, reduced through the appellate process or the “Amparo” which is the rough equivalent to our habeas proceedings.

Although efforts are currently underway to address the wide-spread corruption which has historically plagued Mexican judicial and law enforcement communities, often warrants remain in their system, unserved, for years.  Prosecutions are commenced and then dismissed or sentences substantially reduced in the appellate courts.  No verifiable system exists to track actual sentences served or to create a criminal database.  Repeated demands for such information have been largely ignored by the Mexican government.  Less formal surveys of law enforcement regarding the results of such prosecution show an abysmal record.  Approximately 85% of the cases appear never to have been prosecuted.  The remaining 15% appear to result in acquittals or vastly reduced sentences by comparison to what would have been the sentence in the United States, except in a few highly publicized incidents.”

The only upside being “the Extradition Treaty bars future extradition once a “trial” has been conducted in either country.” So if they are tried here, they will stay here…. As it should be. All of that said, it is critical that our new administration address the immigration issue. It simply has to be on, at very least, one of the burners. And, until it is addressed, and there is some sort of resolve that makes sense, the Mexicans will keep coming. For those who endure the red tape to become legal, I applaud you and welcome you with open arms. For those who don’t… well, you’ll have to face the music if you break our laws. It’s time for a change on immigration too, and I certainly hope we get one soon.

2 thoughts on “Mexican/U.S. Extradition Laws… A Moral Mess?”

  1. They’ll keep coming as long as we keep paying them under the table. Much of the economy in the West and Southwest runs on the backs of illegal immigrants and the piss-poor wages they get paid for doing menial labor. Maybe if we stop trying to save a buck, require citizenship (and mean it), and pay a decent wage the flood might be stemmed. Then there’s the question of the drugs, which brings in a whole different sort of illegal immigrant. If consumption weren’t so high, then they wouldn’t find a market and take their wares and their bad selves elsewhere. If, if, if.

    Hay mucha tela de dónde cortar aquí. There’s much to say on this subject. I, too, hope that our new President gives this issue some serious thought and comes up with a compromise we all can live with. A limited amnesty program, perhaps? I’m not a politician or an analyst, but I hope the brilliant men and women who are just that can come up with a viable solution.

  2. They will also keep coming as long as our NAFTA law keeps driving them off their own once self-sufficent farms. When WE take responsibility for our own hand in the immigration mess and take the well being of those on the lower rung of the economic ladder into consideration when we create these economic chaotic changes, then we will perhaps benefit from an otherwise good idea. But, as long as we only measure the success of such acts by the improved bottom lines of large corporations and GDP figures, we will continue to see illegals come here to take OUR jobs because we succeeded in driving them from THEIRS.

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