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Mexico’s New President

December 7th, 2012

President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Microstar

Mexico has a new president. His name is Enrique Peña Nieto. He’s just 46-years old and, interestingly enough, once lived in Maine for a year.

He started on the job earlier this week, though he won the election in July.

He won Mexico’s recent election with the support of the the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) — a political party that had ruled Mexico for 70 years and was voted back into power after having lost in the last election.

President Obama has already met with President Peña Nieto at the White House and Vice President Joe Biden is recently back from Mexico visiting with him.

Why is Mr. Peña Nieto getting so much attention and why is Mexico’s election relevant to Americans?

The U.S. shares a 2000-mile border with Mexico, which is significant for a few reasons, including immigration and trade.

IMMIGRATION

Did you know there are more immigrants in the U.S. from Mexico  than from any other country in the world?

An immigrant is a person who has moved to a country they weren’t born in.

Out of the 300 million people in the U.S., roughly 40 million are immigrants from all over the world, according to the  Center for Immigration Studies  (CIS) and  U.S. Census Bureau data .

Of those 40 million immigrants, about 11 million are from Mexico.

About half of the 11 million Mexican immigrants (5.5 milion) have proper permission from the U.S. government to be in the U.S. … and about half do not, according to the CIS.

Those who don’t have the U.S. government’s legal permission to be in the U.S. are commonly referred to as either “undocumented immigrants” or “illegal immigrants.” Some argue that immigrants in the U.S. without legal status shouldn’t be called “illegal immigrants” unless they are convicted of a crime.

Getting legal status can be a long process and there are no guarantees. Many Mexican people cross the nearby border anyway and knowingly or unknowingly break U.S. law. It’s risky and often dangerous to do this. And even if they make it, it still doesn’t give them the ability to vote or live without worrying that their status will be discovered and get them sent back (deported).

It also doesn’t address the reason why so many choose to leave their country. Those who come to the U.S. usually do so in search of a better life than they have back home.

President Obama and President Peña Nieto plan to make progress on these issues together.

TRADE

Another reason the U.S. relationship with Mexico is important is trade.

The U.S. shares a border with Mexico and also with Canada to the north. About 20 years ago, the three countries signed an agreement called NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s been controversial from the start but the idea is that because the U.S. borders both Mexico and Canada, doing business between the three countries should be easy, which usually means less government regulations and taxes to pay.

About 80% of everything Mexico exports — sends out of their country — comes to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State . This includes oil, silver, coffee, and some of our favorite fruits and vegetables.

Image credit: Bigstock Photo

To learn more about the country of Mexico, you can visit National Geographic Kids by clicking here .

To read the White House’s position on Immigration, click here .

The Council on Foreign Relations has an excellent interactive timeline of the history of U.S./Mexico relations. To see it, you can click here .

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