Vit­ter re­buffed in de­mand for card­ing Ma­tric­ula sites

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

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.

Getty Images

Sen. David Vit­ter, Louisiana Repub­li­can, failed in his ef­fort to round up il­le­gals show­ing up for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards at Mex­i­can con­sular sites.

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