EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Government of Mexico says it has granted amnesty to the owners of more than 1 million illegally imported cars that now bear legitimate license plates in 14 states.

By legalizing the so-called “chocolate” or “crooked” cars (autos chocolate o chuecos) Mexico not only gets registration fees that will be used to fix streets, but also will be able to track down owners when vehicles are used in murders and robberies. Unregistered cars hinder criminal investigations and contribute to crimes going unsolved, Mexican officials said.

“The regularization of used foreign cars is contributing to improve public safety and giving peace of mind to more than 1 million Mexican families,” Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodriguez said on Thursday. “At the same time, the registration of these vehicles takes the incentive away for their use in the commission of crimes.”

Mexico has legalized more than 1 million illegally imported vehicles. (Graphic courtesy Government of Mexico)

Most of the “chocolate” cars accounted for so far are in states bordering the United States such as Baja California, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, where middle-class Mexican residents can easily travel across the border to buy them from used-car dealers. Baja in 2022 issued registration for 221,805 previously illegal vehicles, Chihuahua followed with 177,383 and Tamaulipas was third with 157,925.

Number of “chocolate” cars legalized, per state. (Government of Mexico)

With steep Mexican import fees (16 percent to 26 percent of the value of the car), many border residents simply drive them back home.

The “chocolate” car amnesty ran from March 19 to December 28, but Rodriguez said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has authorized a new registration period from January 1 through March 31.