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Mexico Offers Theft-Proof Version of IDs

Immigrants: Santa Ana consulate has already started issuing the digital matricula consular. The official roll-out takes place in L.A. today.

April 17, 2002|JENNIFER MENA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As California's governor and Legislature debate issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, Mexican consulates around the country are offering a new theft-proof version of their matricula consular identification cards.

The new cards, now available in Santa Ana, Dallas, New York and Chicago, will be formally introduced today in Los Angeles by Mexico's foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda.

The cards, which are digital like California identification cards and driver's licenses, include a hologram to prevent fraud.

Castaneda's trip to introduce the cards demonstrates the Mexican government's emphasis on the importance of Mexican immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, having valid identification in a more security-conscious United States.

It also represents an investment of several million dollars in equipment in consular offices across the nation, which have been besieged with requests for matriculas since Sept. 11.

The identification cards have been renamed the "high security consular ID."

"The Mexican government is very interested in this document that it become a secure, true form of identification in the United States," said Agustin Pradillo, spokesman for the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles.

In Anaheim, where acceptance of the matricula as identification raised concerns among anti-immigration advocates, police say they are pleased with the new card even though no one knows of any fraud with the old ones.

"It is less susceptible to being counterfeited ... so we are all for this," Anaheim police spokesman Mike Hidalgo said. "We were concerned that as soon as the matricula consular was recognized as a form of identification it could be counterfeited just like the others."

Anaheim police began accepting the matricula at the urging of immigrant rights advocates after many undocumented people were deported for minor traffic violations when they couldn't show valid identification.

The identification issue has taken on greater importance as Gov. Gray Davis reconsiders his initial veto of a bill to allow the undocumented to get driver's licenses, a universally accepted form of identification. Immigrant rights advocates have argued that preventing them from having licenses imposes an economic hardship in a state where the automobile is the primary method of transportation.

In the meantime, the consulate in Santa Ana cranked up its new digital card system this week, charging $29, the same fee as before.

"This one looks more official, and that is important these days," said Jose Lara Mendez, a 29-year-old Santa Ana resident who got an ID card this week because he fears deportation.

The Mexican government has urged its 48 consulates in the United States to promote the ID cards for the estimated 3 million undocumented Mexicans living in the U.S. Some banks, law enforcement agencies and businesses already accept them as legal forms of identification.

Castaneda is making a one-day trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco after Mexico's Congress voted last week to bar President Vicente Fox from going on a three-day trip to the U.S. and Canada, including a stop in San Francisco to introduce the identity cards.

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