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Texas Refuses Mexican Matricula Consular. Politics? Or a Justified Decision?

oil-106913_640The Matrícula Consular de Alta Seguridad is an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulates to Mexican nationals living outside Mexico. Seven years ago, Texas said that it would no longer accept the matricula consular as the parents’ means of identification when issuing birth certificates for children born in the United States whose immigrant parents were here illegally. However, that decision was not enforced until recently. As a result, parents are suing in federal court, claiming that Texas is denying to their US-born children the US citizenship guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.

Many Texas registrars are in favor of continuing to use the matricula on the basis that no other form of identification is available to the parents. In 2013, Janie Madero, at the time registrar in McAllen, said, ‘Most applicants can’t obtain a valid form of identification from the United States because they are here illegally.’

Texas says that it is not politics but risk of forgery that makes the matricula unacceptable. As long ago as 2008, the Health Department (involved because it oversees the state’s Vital Statistics Unit) wrote to the Mexican Consulate in Austin saying that the matricula consular was not a secure form of identification and would therefore not be accepted. The policy has been in registrar handbooks since 2010. Nevertheless, some registrars have carried on accepting the matricula and it is only recently that Texas officials have begun to ask them not to do so.

Not all registrars are complying with their instructions even now. Maritza Gutierrez, registrar in the border town of Pharr, says that she still accepts the matricula as long as other forms of identification such as utility bills are also present. ‘It’s our prerogative that we take it.’

Some immigration attorneys question the statement that refusal to accept the Mexican document is because of concerns about fraud. They say the change came about with an increase in illegals entering Texas from the south. Efren Olivares, one of the lawyers representing immigrant parents suing, said there had been a “tightening of the screws”, while Jennifer Harbury with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said, ‘It certainly doesn’t look like it could have possibly been a coincidence.’

However, counter-arguments exist. New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett says that use of the matricula weakens the measures established after 9/11 to safeguard American businesses and financial institutions against fraud and abuse. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, an FBI agent said that Mexican consulates issued the card to individuals lacking proof of identification, as long as they signed a form saying they were who they claimed to be. He went on to say that US federal and local drug enforcement agents had discovered numerous cases of the card being obtained using aliases and that their use in the United States presents a serious criminal threat.

A 2003 letter to the Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge by the House Chairmen of the Homeland Security Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, & Intellectual Property, said that the matricula consular “can be a perfect breeder document for establishing a false identity”. They warned that criminals could exploit the cards to conceal their identity as well as launder money and write fraudulent checks. They went on to point out that any acceptance of the cards by the Federal government “compromises our homeland security” by providing an opportunity for terrorists to freely move about the U.S., board planes and transfer funds for terrorist activities.

Clearly this debate is at an early stage. If you would like legal consultation on this or other immigration matters, please get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm for assistance. You can send an enquiry through the website, or simply call 512-215-5225.