The Controversial Consular I.D. Card
From Hoy
September 14, 2003

By Monica Bastidas

The Mexican consular identification card has become subject to controversy. The General Consulate of Mexico in New York City issues the controversial I.D. cards, basing their reasoning on an international convention. While community leaders and pro immigrant activist applaud the measure, they agree that the card is a pretext to pressure the United States government towards amnesty. On the other hand, conservative groups believe that this is an issue that could threaten national security.

Steven McCraw, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes that the I.D cards possesses certain security concerns for the United States due to the fact that México does not have a centralized database to coordinate the issuing of the I.D.s.

Arnulfo Chino, coordinator of cultural events of Tepeyac Association, believes that “with time the I.D card has been loosing its validity. It is not accepted by banks and it is very easy to falsify it.”

It is for these reasons that Chino believes that “this is part of a process of future acknowledgement, of a possible amnesty; otherwise there is no way of explaining the issuing of a consular I.D. card that is not even very functional.”

Arturo Sarukhan the general counsel of Mexico in New York City, has a very different opinion. He believes that the “consular I.D. card goes further than a passport and it is based on the agreements of the Vienna Convention on consular relations. It is a legitimate identification card”.

The consular I.D. card was created for the purpose of helping Mexican immigrants identify themselves as such before employers and police in another country. “This is an I.D. card that supports all our citizens” claims Sarukhan. While the Mexican consulate claims that it is a very secure identification document, U.S based and Mexico based civil institutions have conducted their own investigations to evaluate the viability and security of the card. Congressman Elton Gallegly of California, part of a group of Republicans that are pushing forward a measure to prohibit the use of the consular I.D. card, believes that terrorists and countries that support terrorism “are evaluating this program to see how they can exploit it.”

According to Sarukhan, however, it is impossible to create copies of these I.D cards, thanks to eleven biometric measures incorporated into the card. It also has a hologram that aids in digitizing the information and renders it completely secure, says the diplomat.

Those organizations that lobby for further controls on immigration claim that, like Mexico, countries like Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador could put in circulation their own consular I.D cards for their undocumented citizens.

The New Agenda

When Vicente Fox became Mexico's president in December 2000 he promised to negotiate an agreement with George W. Bush concerning the regularization of status for millions of undocumented Mexicans living in the United States. The attacks here in New York City and in Washington D.C. abruptly changed that proposed agenda.

The tragedy of September 11th disrupted the possibility of a more concrete agreement with Mexico. Before the terrorist attacks, Bush had sought an agreement and had tightened personal connections with Fox, but the attacks altered this situation.

But despite the controversies generated concerning its validity and security, the development of the consular I.D card is well under way.

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Translated from Spanish by Valeria Treves

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