Southern Discomfort: U.S. Citizens Warned Anew About Travel to Mexico

The U.S. Department of State released a new Travel Warning for Mexico last week. The latest travel warning, which replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico issued on July 12, 2013, provides updated, regional information on security problems in Mexico and sets forth travel restrictions applicable to U.S. government personnel and non-government personnel alike.

The Travel Warning advises that U.S. citizens have been subjected to violent crimes, including kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). Particular areas of concern noted in the Travel Warning are "drug-related violence and crime . . . in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes." Department of State recommends against travel to those areas, and urges visitors to "exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the northern border region."

The Travel Warning paints a bleak picture of the current security situation in Mexico, noting skirmishes involving gun battles between government authorities and members of TCOs that pin down, and sometimes kill, innocent bystanders. Murders of U.S. citizens in Mexico are on the rise; 81 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2013, compared with 71 in 2012.

The number of kidnappings has also increased, though U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted. Between April and November of 2013, there were 90 reports of kidnappings of U.S. citizens. States seeing the most kidnappings include Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. Only 1,317 of the estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012 were reported to the police, which has been implicated in some of those crimes, according to the Travel Warning.

The Travel Warning contains the usual admonitions to U.S. citizens to lay low by avoiding wearing flashy jewelry or apparel that would identify them as Americans. In other words, you might want to leave your New England Patriots jersey at home and think twice before playing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" at full volume as you drive down that deserted country road late at night on your way to Ixtapa.

While the Travel Warning does not require non-U.S. government employees to abide by its recommendations to avoid travel to certain insecure regions, those employed by the U.S. government and their family must avoid travel to areas which have received a "defer non-essential travel" designation.

Of course, those who read the latest Department of State Travel Warning for Mexico with even the slightest degree of attention might be discouraged from traveling there at all.

Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman.

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