Paisano program helps visitors
By MARTÍN E. MARTÍNEZ and JUAN ESPARZA LOERA / Vida en el Valle
(Published Wednesday, November 21st, 2007 11:05AM)
From last Saturday through next Jan. 8, Mexican immigration authorities will implement the 2007-08 Paisano Program, which is designed to help the millions of Mexican nationals who travel back to their home country during the Christmas holidays.
Mario Pérez, who represents the program in the U.S. western region, visited the Mexican Consulates in Sacramento and Fresno last week to explain how the program works.
"The program's objective is to make sure
that all our countrymen who go to México this year for the Christmas holidays do so in a safe manner and that they are well treated at the points of entry, whether it be by land or by air," said Pérez.
The Mexican government, he said, will send 1,200 observers to points of entry at the border to consult with travelers and, at the same time, find out if customs officials are asking for bribes or attempting to illegally confiscate a visitor's item.
The way to identify those observers is through their attire, said Pérez. The observers wear blue plants,
white shirts and a cap with the Paisano Program logo.
It is estimated that 1.2 million Mexicans will cross the border to spend the Christmas season with their families and friends. The majority of them will go to Michoacán, Jalisco, Guanajuato and Zacatecas, said Pérez.
As is done during the Christmas break -- Nov. 20 through Jan. 8 -- the value of items a person can carry increases from $50 to $300 per person who travels in the same vehicle, said Pérez.
For those persons who go over the $300 limit, they must pay a 15 percent tax and should go to the special lane at the border crossing to make their declarations.
Pérez also revealed the list of products that can not be taken into México so that people are not surprised at the border crossing.
Any type of food that is packaged as turkey, or up to 15 kilograms of pork. Both must have a seal of certification. The same goes
for sports articles, toys and portable computers.
Each family is allowed up to two pets, be they dogs or cats. If the family brings in more pets, it must obtain a certificate. Animals like parrots, birds, and eagles are not allowed.
Strictly prohibited are firearms of any type, psychotic drugs, dirt, plants, and fruits with seeds or roots.
Pérez said it is very important that travelers present their auto permits, which can be obtained at the Mexican Consulates in Los Ángeles, Sacramento or San Bernardino. Motorists will have to prove they are legal residents, present a car title, and pay a $30 fee.
According to Pérez, a 2006 survey of 16,000 visitors conducted by the university Colegio de la Frontera Norte showed that 73 percent of travelers knew about the Paisano Program.
"Of those, 99.8 percent said they were happy with the program," said Pérez.
However, he said travelers must file a grievance if they find Mexican officials try to take advantage of them. Pérez said the university survey showed that 1.4 percent of travelers indicated they had experienced an incident during their visit. "And of those, only 1.4 percent filed a complaint," said Pérez.
Pérez said the complaints can be filed by telephone, e-mail, at in person at a Mexican Consulate.
Copies of the Paisano Program guide are available at the Mexican Consulate offices.
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Peter S. Lopez ~aka:Peta
Sacramento, California, Aztlan
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