Toward a Retorno Digno: Recommendations for a Holistic Public Policy of Return to Mexico City


Since the 1980s, Mexican and United States (US) economic and immigration policy reforms have created the conditions for Mexico to become a state of expulsion and return. Particularly since 1996, the US has deported or forced millions of migrants out of the country. Although poorly documented by both governments, the return migrant population continues to grow in Mexico. Otros Dreams en Acción (ODA) is an organization dedicated to mutual support and political action by and for the return community in Mexico. Since 2018, ODA has accompanied nearly 400 people in Mexico as they navigate life post-return. Our community-based accompaniment model centers relationships, trust-building, and emotional wellness while working together to access basic rights and services, from identity documents to education to housing. Over the years, we have seen firsthand how institutional barriers can make the difference between a return that is characterized by fighting to survive, and one that is characterized by living with dignity.

This differentiation set the stage for ODA’s three-month pilot project Retorno Digno implemented in early 2021 with recently returned migrants. Retorno Digno combines our accompaniment model with monthly unrestricted cash grants and mental health therapy free of charge. The unrestricted cash grants are core to the project because they address the realities that the minimum wage in Mexico is not a living wage, that people are best-equipped to identify their own needs and respond accordingly, that recently returned migrants often find themselves in situations of extreme vulnerability, including financially, and that this creates a relationship founded on trust, a core tenant of our accompaniment model.

Based on the results of Retorno Digno, and our years of experience using ODA’s accompaniment model, we offer these Mexico City policy recommendations that will better create the conditions for a dignified return for all return migrants:

  • Allocate direct, unrestricted financial assistance to migrants
  • Establish a “One Stop Shop” where migrants and return migrants can process basic documents and access citywide programs
  • Establish clear guidelines with continuous training to accept multiple forms of official identity documents for all Mexico City government services and programs
  • Remove the requirements to have an apostille and both parents present to process the “Certificate of Mexican Nationality” in Mexico City.
  • Establish agreements with private banks to recognize multiple forms of official government identity documents (passport, consular ID, visas issued by INAMI, INE) as an official ID for all basic transactions under 10,000 pesos
  • Gradually increase the minimum wage in Mexico City from $141.70 to $1054.20 pesos per day to address high costs of living and extreme economic inequalities
  • Designate and fund specific government shelters for migrants, including return migrants, with temporary housing and a re-insertion program in partnership with civil society organizations
  • Collaborations with civil society organizations that include funding in order to provide comprehensive resources for navigating life in Mexico City in the first months of arrival
  • Eliminate the practice of requiring a property-owner’s endorsement (aval) in order to rent an apartment
  • Training for all Mexico City Department of Education employees and school administrators to implement regulatory Agreement 286 as reformed in 2017, which eliminates the requirements of an apostille, official translation, and previous education history in favor of flexibility and the constitutional right to a public education
  • Expand the eligibility requirements for SIBISO’s Family Visits Program to include current residents in Mexico City and not only those who were born in Mexico City