Mexico's decision to recall its ambassador for consultations on a change in the status of 100,000 Mexican immigrants is "not a rebuke to the United States," a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Mexico City said today.
U.S. officials deny reports that the change, which would revoke temporary permits held by immigrants awaiting visas, would cause mass deportations.
Mexican ambassador Hugo B. Margain met in Washington this morning with assistant secretary of state for consular affairs Diego C. Ascencio to discuss the change, and the spokesman in Mexico City said Margain would probably go home next week.
Under a 1977 federal court decision on a suit by an illegal immigrant, Refugio Silva, U.S. State Department officials were ordered to make amends for discriminating against Mexican and other Latin American visa applicants in favor of Cuban refugees. As a result, about 245,000 illegal immigrants--most of them Mexicans--received the temporary permits, called "Silva letters."
Last month the State Department determined that all 144,999 extra visas ordered by the federal court had been granted, leaving the rest who hold Silva letters with no immediate chance for a visa.
Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Verne Jervis said the 100,000 people affected would be informed of their change of status by mail and be asked to come in for interviews, "but we are not conducting a roundup or mass deportations."
U.S. officials have also said that those left holding now-invalid Silva letters may be allowed to remain in the country legally under an amnesty bill being considered by the Reagan administration and Congress. Estimates of illegal immigrants range from 3.5 million to 6 million, with most of them thought to come from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
Omer G. Sewell, deputy district director of the INS here, said the Silva-letter holders not protected by other laws or regulations would be told to leave, but the practical impact of the change of status would be "very minimal." He said his office was so short of manpower that it could only call in 10 Silva-letter holders a week, even though thousands in his area may be affected. Immigration officials have conceded that they do not have the time or manpower to search them out.
American officials in Mexico City said that they thought the Mexican government had been well informed about developments growing out of the Silva decision, but that sensational reports in the Mexican press of impending mass deportations had forced the government to take some action.
Agustin Gutierrez, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, called the decision to recall Margain "a mechanical thing." He said, "It's a legal matter and he is consulting with lawyers and other people." Gutierrez said his government would study the impact of the Silva decision and "then take the right decision for Mexico," but did not speculate what it might be.
Silva sued for the right to remain in the United States. The court ruled that Latin Americans who had applied for visas from July, 1968, through December, 1976, should be given a chance to receive them. When the State Department began to grant the additional visas, the earliest applicants received theirs first. According to a State Department official, the 144,999 visas ordered by the court were not enough to take care of those who applied after Aug. 8, 1975.
Of the visas granted, 115,271 went to Mexicans, a State Department official said. The number of applicants from Mexico is so large, however, that most of the immigrants who hold the now-invalid Silva letters are also Mexicans, Jervis said.