Buenas tardes. Good afternoon.

I would like to thank NALEO’s President, The Honorable Alex Padilla, and Arturo Vargas for their kind invitation.

Dear Friends, Mexico is changing. The structural reforms proposed by President Enrique Pena Nieto and approved by Congress have us poised to enter a new era. These reforms will make Mexico more competitive not only by accelerating and increasing growth, but by widening and deepening North American integration. One of our highest priorities is to ensure North America is the most competitive and prosperous region in the world during this century, and that will require commitments from both sides of our common border. Ultimately, however, one of the keys to the success of North America will be how we recognize and understand the challenge and enormous potential of migration in our part of the world.

Emigration flows from Mexico have experienced a dramatic shift in recent years. From 2005 to 2010, net migration between Mexico and the United States was close to zero, and since then it has only increased slightly. Our population, like yours, is aging and there are less people willing to migrate from Mexico to the United States. Economic growth in Mexico has also played a major role in decreasing migration flows. More and more Mexicans have now entered the middle class.

This new migration trend poses new challenges and opportunities. While our embassy and consulates will continue to serve the most vulnerable—the undocumented and early arrivals—we need to adjust our policies and programs to the new realities of our communities in the United States. 56% of Mexicans in the U.S. have lived in this country for over 10 years and the Mexican-American population is growing steadily.

For Mexican communities to advance in the United States, we must continue to debunk stereotypes and underline the important contributions they make to this country. Mexicans in the US are hard-working, constructive entrepreneurs with a high sense of social responsibility.

So many young Mexican immigrants enrich their new communities while bringing our countries together. Five Mexicans who have benefitted from the DACA program were recently recognized by the White House with the Champions of Change Award for their outstanding community leadership. They, along with the two young Mexicans that recently accepted the national Ohtli award on behalf of United We Dream, are just a few examples of the extraordinary courage and talent in the Mexican community in this country. In many cases, these young immigrants possess a binational identity that combines being Mexican and American without conflict or contradiction.

As you know, actually during NALEO’s conference last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill. I am certain that immigration reform is not a matter of “if” but of “when”, and the time is now. The hard work of immigration advocates, Hispanic organizations and leaders like you is changing the tide. Today, the contributions of immigrants and the need for immigration reform are widely acknowledged. States are moving away from anti-immigrant legislation to instead promote more welcoming laws and policies, like in California. Mexico will continue to follow the debate and deepen its collaboration with individuals and organizations to ensure the well-being of our nationals.

For the last twenty-five years, the Government of Mexico has made continuous and systematic efforts to engage in a constructive and forward-looking relationship with Mexicans and Mexicans-Americans living in the United States. Building trustful and respectful relationships with national Hispanic organizations has been a key element of the government’s strategy. As the gap between Mexico and its communities abroad has begun to close, the way in which the government approaches Hispanic organizations has changed. We not only ask them what we can do together, but also what the Mexican Government can do for them.

Mexico and numerous Hispanic organizations have become strategic allies with a common goal—the well-being and empowerment of Latinos in the United States. Now, our relationship is starting a new phase as we join their efforts to promote citizenship. In the case of Mexico, this undertaking is not a small feat because there are approximately 3.5 million Mexicans that hold a Green Card and are eligible to become American citizens. Taking into consideration that our ultimate goal is that Mexicans and Latinos in the United States fully integrate, participate and thrive in their communities, it is only natural that we support them in their path to gain full access to civic, social, economic and political rights.

With this objective in mind, our consulates have truly become integration centers where migrants have access to a wide array of services and programs, from matrículas consulares and passports, to health information and financial literacy programs. We have transcended traditional consular services in order to empower our community while helping them to stay in touch with Mexico.

This afternoon, I am pleased to announce that the Mexican Government, through its embassy and the network of 50 consulates, will step up our citizenship promotion efforts. It is important for Mexicans in the United States to be made aware of the advantages of becoming U.S. citizens without losing their Mexican nationality. The message is clear: taking this step is both beneficial for Mexicans in the United States and for their host communities.

In this endeavor, NALEO is a key partner. For many years we have discussed this issue and today I am here to commit to deepening and strengthening our long-standing relationship in an area that is of utmost importance to all of us.

And now, l invite Ernesto de Lucas, Director of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, and Remedios Gomez, Consul General of Mexico in San Diego, to join me in presenting the Ohtli Award to Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny.

Senator Ducheny please step forward.

Senator Ducheny has strengthened the Mexico–U.S. relationship. Her legislative work has promoted numerous initiatives and mechanisms that have enabled Mexico and the United States to improve their bilateral dialogue. To name a few of her accomplishments, while a member of the California State Assembly, she launched a series of bi-national meetings that eventually became known as the Border Legislative Conference. As Assembly Member, she worked for the establishment of a permanent Office of Binational Border Health. During her tenure in the State Senate, Senator Ducheny founded and chaired the Select Committee on California-Mexico Collaboration and the Colorado River. She also founded the Commission on the Three Californias and sponsored the creation of the Border Research Partnership.

The more fluent relationship we enjoy as a result of her dedication has brought better cultural understanding and greater acknowledgment of the important contributions our community makes to the U.S. Without a doubt, Senator Ducheny has fostered a more accurate public image of Mexico, Mexicans and Mexicans Americans.

She is also well-known her commitment to advancing the interests of the underserved. While she was on the San Diego Community College Board she expanded access for all Californians to higher education, regardless of immigration status. Her advocacy efforts in support of immigration reform and against anti-immigrant policies have been tireless.

For this, on behalf of the Government of Mexico, I will now bestow the Ohtli Award upon Senator Ducheny, a truly inspirational public servant.