Marina del Pilar Avila Olmeda, the Governor of the U.S. bordering Mexican state of Baja California, announced this week that she gave birth at a hospital in California, receiving criticism from Mexicans and Americans alike.
Born in 1985, Avila Olmeda has been one of the rising political stars in Mexico. At the age of 31 in 2018, she was elected to be Deputy of Baja California, the closest equivalent in Mexican Government to being a Congressional Representative in America. There, she served only six months before resigning to run for Municipal President, or Mayor, of Mexicali, which she won in October 2019. She proceeded to serve for two years before running again in 2021, this time for Governor of Baja California. At the age of 35, she won, becoming the first woman and one of the youngest people ever to be Governor of the Mexican state.
However, despite her quick climb, she has also been heavily criticized for many issues, including cancelling numerous public works projects, and the controversial ways she reduced crime during her time as the Municipal President of Mexicali.
One of her biggest controversies has been having children across the border in California. During several of her earlier runs, a big issue was giving birth to her daughter in a Brawley, California hospital in 2016. The process, known as birthright citizenship, has largely been a backdoor for immigration for decades, with many allowed to stay in the U.S. as a result of their baby receiving U.S. citizenship. While in the U.S. the process is often lambasted as an easy way for illegal immigrants to stay once in. However, in Mexico, it’s often seen as an elitist move, with many wealthy Mexicans having a child in the U.S. to give them a leg-up as a citizen, often to make traveling and getting into higher education easier rather than just coming in as a Mexican immigrant.
Criticism from US, Mexico
The confirmation of the birth of her son, Diego Jose Torres Avila, was met with the same criticism this week from citizens of both countries.
“It’s not well regarded in Mexico believe it or not,” said Maria Diaz, an immigration paperwork specialist in Tijuana. “Poorer families do it as a way to get around the paperwork, with a lot of Mexicans tied up for years and waiting, seeing it as cheating the system. It’s desperation for them.”
“But when wealthier people do it, it’s almost entirely for the reason of giving them a head start in life. You don’t need visas to get to good colleges in California with U.S. citizenship, and they can afford the dual taxes. If anything, we see this as benefiting the U.S. because of all the money wealthier Mexicans and their children put back into the U.S. rather than in Mexico.”
“What Avila Olmeda did, that is seen as ultra-elitist. She can try and claim the hospitals are better or there is less crime in California, but we all know the real reason.”
Americans were similarly outraged about the issue.
“Birthright citizenship for rich people,” said Charles Carpenter, an immigration advocate, to the Globe on Tuesday. “It’s bad enough this still happens in such large numbers, but at least with illegal immigrants they have valid reasons of wanting to come to California. Some people may not like them, but they are reasons. Avila Olmeda did this solely so her kids could have dual citizenship. That’s it.”
“Unfortunately she isn’t the first or last powerful Mexican to do this.”
As of Tuesday, Avila Olmeda has not responded to the criticism of her actions. The incident is expected to be a damaging issue on her next run for public office.
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