MEXICO CITY (AP) The Mexican government is expecting to issue more than one million consular identification cards in the U.S. this year as part of an effort to help more than three million undocumented immigrants get increased access to public and private services.
Roberto Rodriguez, head of consular affairs at Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, said the IDs are increasingly being accepted by private institutions and local government agencies for the opening of bank accounts, issuance of driving licenses and even access to public libraries.
“Mexican consulates issued 660,000 consular IDs last year,” Rodriguez said in an interview Friday. “As of June this year, we have issued more than 500,000 IDs, so our year-end projections are above one million ID cards.”
The Mexican government has 47 consulates in the U.S., the world’s largest consular network in a single country, serving close to 9 million Mexican residents, of which 3.8 million are estimated to be undocumented.
“The size of such a network mirrors the magnitude and importance of Mexican labor in the U.S.,” Rodriguez added.
The government of President Vicente Fox has stepped up diplomatic efforts to reach an immigration agreement with the U.S. That could eliminate deaths of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Mexico-U.S. border and further legalize the $9 billion in remittances that the Mexican labor force in the U.S. sends to relatives south of the border.
The consular ID program “is promoting the importance of Mexican labor, regardless of its immigration status,” Rodriguez said.
Already 61 banks in the U.S. are accepting the ID cards, known in Spanish as “matriculas consulares.” However, only 16 accept the matricula as a single document needed to open a bank account.
The government launched in March a new version of the card with digitalized, high-security features at its busiest offices: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and six other consulates in the U.S.
The ID card, which includes the holder’s photo and address, certifies that the holder is a Mexican citizen living abroad, within the boundaries of a specific Mexican consular circumscription. It is also a valid document to clear Mexican immigration when the bearer goes back home.
According to the Foreign Ministry, U.S. and Mexican airlines flying into Mexico are now accepting the IDs. Some consulates have seen a sharp increase in ID applications after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The Mexican government expects all of its consulates to be able to issue the high-security cards and operate a new database, called Consular Information System, by the end of this summer.