Vitter rebuffed in demand for carding Matricula sites
A U.S. senator says immigration authorities should be on hand to arrest illegal aliens who show up to get the controversial Matricula Consular cards issued by the Mexican government.
Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to place agents over the Nov. 17-18 weekend outside a municipal building in Lafayette, La., where Mexican consular officials had planned to issue the cards, which can be obtained by any Mexican living outside Mexico. Critics say the cards are a magnet for illegal aliens because they convey the trappings of legal status.
“The Mexican government makes it perfectly clear in advertising this that their citizens can get these cards whether they’re here legally or illegally, so in that situation it would be very clear it’s going to attract a significant number of illegals,” Mr. Vitter said, adding that ICE should take action.
“It would be the right response to show up and do something,” he said.
Mr. Vitter says ICE refused his request, but the Lafayette city government stepped in and revoked the consulate’s license to use the municipal building.
Matricula Consular cards are accepted by some banks and state and local governments as valid identification, which critics say allows illegal aliens to blend into American society. Mexican consulates regularly schedule appearances in cities and towns nationwide to issue the cards to Mexican citizens.
Mr. Vitter said ICE should tar- get those events, and said he raised the issue with ICE’s chief, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Julie L. Myers, in a telephone call. He said she was not very helpful.
“In general, I found the conversation with her pretty frustrating,” he said, adding that she “clearly wasn’t prepared to do anything about it.”
ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly said Mrs. Myers heard Mr. Vitter’s concerns but said ICE prioritizes enforcement to focus on illegal aliens at critical national security and infrastructure sites. The spokeswoman also said ICE doesn’t want to interfere in the Mexican government communicating with legal residents, who also are eligible for the identification cards.
“We do not want to prevent the Mexican government from communicating with its citizens,” she said, adding that, “given the lack of probable cause, attempting to disrupt the issuance of Matricula Consular cards could be seen as racial profiling.”
She said ICE puts a higher priority on cases involving child exploitation, smuggling and illegal aliens working at critical locations such as airports and military bases.
“All countries party to the Vienna Conventions have the right and obligation to care for their citizens, regardless of their migratory status on the host country,” said Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy. “That’s part of what Mexican consulates do in the United States, and the same way U.S. consulates abroad take care of Americans.”
Earlier this year, an embassy spokesman said that Mexico is- sued 963,782 cards in 2004, 830,987 in 2005 and 929,702 in 2006.
Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said he wasn’t too concerned about the cards at first, but when constituents called, he investigated and became uncomfortable.
“They admitted they were not going to even bother to check if somebody was here legally or illegally,” he said, adding that he thinks issuing the cards to help illegal aliens hurts those immigrants waiting in line legally.
He said that so far, he has only heard praise from constituents for canceling the permit.
“My understanding is that [the consulate] did this last year in several places, including Lafayette, and I never heard a word about it. So I guess it’s the emotion of the whole illegal immigrant thing right now that’s got people up in arms,” he said.
Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, failed in his effort to round up illegals showing up for identification cards at Mexican consular sites.