Under renewed pressure from Mexico’s federal government, intercity bus companies (autotransportes) are demanding to see official identification from both nationals and foreigners before selling them tickets.
The move comes as the Interior Ministry (Gobernacion) ramps up efforts to stem the flow of Central American migrants heading to the U.S. border.
In recent days, companies at bus stations throughout the country have posted signs warning customers of their new regulation.
Mexican citizens must present either their voter (INE) credential, passport, military service card or professional cedula, while foreigners – in most instances – are also being asked to show immigration documentation verifying their legal status in the country (tourist visa, resident visa, humanitarian visa).
The move comes after protracted talks between the companies and officials from Gobernacion in recent weeks. Immigration authorities are aware that criminal gangs regularly use bona fide buses to transport migrants across Mexico and are keen to clamp down on the practice.
Back in April, the National Immigration Institute (INM) sent out an open letter to the companies asking for their “cooperation” in identifying undocumented migrants seeking to travel on their buses, and warning of the stiff penalties written into Mexican law – including severe fines and jail terms – should they be found guilty of reaping any “economic benefit” from transporting migrants.
Up until now, mainstream autotransportes have rarely been penalized for transporting undocumented foreigners but April’s warning was clear. And with time running out – U.S. President Donald Trump wants to see concrete results from his “migrant deal” with Mexico within 45 days – Gobernacion has clearly stepped up the pressure on the bus companies to act.
In order to remain above the law federal authorities have not specified the measures that bus companies should take to ensure they do not sell tickets to undocumented passengers and have put the onus on the firms to make their own regulations. Some of the signs posted at bus stations appear to only require foreigners to show their passports, while the requirements for Mexicans may vary slightly depending on the company.