- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Mexican government, despite concerns by U.S. law-enforcement authorities and immigration officials, is handing out thousands of identity cards to Mexican nationals in this country, including those here illegally.
The "matricular consular cards" cost about $25, are good for five years and can be obtained from a Mexican consular office with a birth certificate and a photo identification issued in either Mexico or the United States.
The cards have been used by Mexican nationals to obtain social services, establish bank accounts, open utility accounts and obtain building permits. They also have been used as legal identification for those who have been detained by state, local and federal law-enforcement authorities.
"The most important thing to understand about these Mexican matriculas is that they are almost absolute proof that the bearer is an illegal alien," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform.
"Legal immigrants can get valid U.S. documents, like state-issued driver's licenses, while visitors can prove their identity with a passport and a valid visa. The only people who would need these consular-issued IDs are illegal aliens," Mr. Stein said.
Aside from tacitly recognizing the presence of people who are violating the law, Mr. Stein said the U.S. government in allowing the cards to be used as identification has placed critical national security matters in the hands of the foreign governments that issue the cards.
"We know that corruption is prevalent in the Mexican government, and yet we are relying on a chain of faceless Mexican bureaucrats to vouch for the identities of millions of people, about whom the only thing we know for certain is that they've broken our immigration laws," he said.
"Clearly, our policy-makers are still more serious about maintaining a flow of cheap labor for a handful of business interests or currying favor with a few self-appointed ethnic spokespeople, than they are about controlling illegal immigration or addressing national security," he said.
Last week, in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, 12 House members questioned the propriety of the cards, describing them as an "issue of enormous significance that has massive implications for the nation."
The lawmakers said that in addition to Mexican authorities, officials in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had increased their efforts to provide "identification cards to their nationals living illegally in the United States." They also said Mexico had undertaken "a massive lobbying effort" to persuade local authorities to accept the cards for identification purposes.
"While the issuance of national identification cards is nothing new, providing them with the express purpose of evading U.S. law is something entirely different," the lawmakers said. "The active lobbying of local and state governments by consuls of foreign countries is, at least, a breach of international protocol deserving of a serious response by our government."
The letter was signed by Republican Reps. John T. Doolittle and Dana Rohrabacher of California; Thomas G. Tancredo of Colorado; Nathan Deal and Charles Norwood of Georgia; Todd Akin of Missouri; Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina; John Sullivan of Oklahoma; Sam Johnson and Lamar S. Smith of Texas; and Jo Ann Davis and Virgil H. Goode Jr. of Virginia.
Many U.S. banks and financial institutions have shown renewed interest in the identity cards because they can be used to open accounts. Mexican nationals in the United States send about $9.5 billion back to their country each year and had been unable to obtain state-issued identification cards to allow them to establish bank accounts in this country.
Law-enforcement authorities said more than a million Mexican nationals, including hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, have obtained the identity cards. Some illegal aliens arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol have been found to have multiple cards each containing the person's picture but with other names and personal data.
Mr. Tancredo, chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said thousands of Mexican nationals have lined up at consular offices nationwide to obtain the identity cards as a legitimate proof of identification for those whose immigration status may be in question.
"Illegal immigrants are the only people who need matricular cards, and they are lining up with abandon all across the country to get them," he said.
Mr. Tancredo said the cards are being distributed in the hope that cities and states will accept them as proper identification, and that all social services and related privileges usually reserved for citizens will be afforded to Mexican nationals who are illegally in this country.
"Mexican officials have stated that getting local governments to accept these cards is a way to maneuver around the U.S. Congress, which has so far blocked attempts to pass any amnesty provision for illegal aliens," he said.
Mr. Tancredo also said he was "outraged" that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has endorsed a pilot program allowing a federal building in San Francisco to accept the cards as a legitimate form of identification for visitors.
"I know we are not supposed to be surprised by even the most bizarre behavior emanating out of San Francisco, but we should at least be taken aback when a member of Congress from that area encourages people to violate the laws of this nation," he said.
The Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco is the first of its type in the country to accept the identity cards. The building began accepting the cards Jan. 8 as part of a Pelosi-backed four-month trial program, which will mainly serve illegal immigrants who are ineligible for U.S. identification.
The laminated cards, about the size of a driver's license, contain the bearer's photograph, name, address in the United States, birth date and place, signature and a hologram of the official seal of Mexico. The cards do not list the person's immigration status.

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