International Migration and Sovereignty Reinterpretation in Mexico

32 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2006

See all articles by Ernesto Hernandez Lopez

Ernesto Hernandez Lopez

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


Recent developments in Mexico's doctrine of non-intervention suggest that national experiences with migrant-sending influence how sovereignty concepts are applied in domestic law. Based on the concept of international sovereignty and included in Mexico's Constitution Article 89:X, the international law norm of non-intervention prohibits a country's foreign relations from interfering in another country's domestic affairs. With traditional sovereignty reasoning, the norm of non-intervention prohibited Mexico from having a foreign policy on its migrants in the US, because the issue intervened in US jurisdiction; such a policy would violate the norm and international sovereignty.

This essay's central claim is that recent developments suggest Mexican foreign relations law, e.g., Article 89:X, applies sovereignty-based legal doctrine in less absolute and traditional manners. These changes are the result of a transnational influence, when sovereign authority is conceptualized to include the interests of actors outside national borders. In 2001, Mexico conducted its most active campaign, at times labeled the whole enchilada, to lobby US lawmakers for reforms to US immigration laws. These developments are contrary to traditional interpretations of non-intervention. This points to the opposite of the doctrine's traditional reasoning, indicating that foreign relations may influence other countries' domestic affairs.

This essay highlights how traditional sovereignty reasoning, e.g., absolute sovereignty, in Mexico has been replaced by a more transnational interpretation of sovereignty. This is eye-catching for a student of international legal doctrine because the non-intervention doctrine is based on ideas of absolute sovereignty. Non-intervention seeks to exclude foreign influence in domestic issues. Its ultimate goal is to protect independent and autonomous sovereign authority, e.g., absolute sovereignty, from external threats. Currently, more transnational elements characterize the limits of sovereign authority.

To prove these claims, Section I presents how immigration should be studied as a transnational subject, since its effects are experienced in both sending and receiving countries. This helps identify how changes in the non-intervention doctrine are deviations in applying absolute sovereignty reasoning, and suggest instead that there is a currently transnational influence in this reasoning. Section II describes how the Mexican non-intervention doctrine is based on absolute sovereignty ideals. It envisions sovereign authority, over immigrants in national territory and over domestic law-making or migrant regulation, as exclusive and without limitations. Section III reports how Mexican foreign relations law has reinterpreted the norm of non-intervention and applied it differently. Traditionally the norm resulted in Mexico's policy of no-policy, with Mexico not advocating for its nationals overseas. Since the mid-1990s, Mexican foreign relations have deviated from this rigid interpretation with aggressive lobbying of US lawmakers for changes to US immigration law, an active program representing migrants through Mexican consulates, representing migrant and Mexican concerns to US policy makers, and seeking an immigration agreement with the US. Section IV concludes by analytically incorporating doctrinal changes Mexican law with transnational analysis of sovereignty concepts.

Keywords: sovereignty , immigration, foreign relations, transnational, non-intervention, Mexico, migration, international law

Suggested Citation

Hernandez Lopez, Ernesto, International Migration and Sovereignty Reinterpretation in Mexico. California Western Law Review (Symposium), Vol. 43, pp. 203-233, 2006, Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 2007-03, Available at SSRN:

Ernesto Hernandez Lopez (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States

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