IDs for Illegals: Mexico's 'Matricula Consular' Facilitates Illegal Immigration

By CIS on January 1, 2003

Read the report.

Read the panel discussion transcript.

WASHINGTON (January 28, 2003) -- "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

These are the words of a top official in Mexico's foreign ministry, describing his government's piecemeal approach to securing an amnesty for the 3 to 5 million Mexican illegal aliens in the United States, a strategy adopted in the wake of the new security environment in the U.S. after 9/11. The foremost tool in this strategy is the "matricula consular," or consular registration card, that Mexico hopes will be accepted by governments and businesses across the United States, giving illegal aliens legitimate ID to present law enforcement and to open bank accounts, among other uses, thus
helping bring about a de facto amnesty.

The Center for Immigration Studies has published the first in-depth examination of the matricula consular and the role it plays in Mexico's attempt to shape U.S. immigration policy: "IDs for Illegals: The 'Matricula Consular' Advances Mexico's Immigration Agenda," by Marti Dinerstein, a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and President of Immigration Matters.

Among the findings in the report:

  • The matricula consular is useful in the United States only for illegal aliens, because legal immigrants, by definition, have U.S. government-issued documents.
  • The Mexican government has launched an aggressive grassroots lobbying campaign to win acceptance for the matricula from state and local jurisdictions and from American banks, especially in areas where Mexican illegal aliens are concentrated.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department has given its explicit approval to banks to accept the matricula for opening bank accounts.
  • While many jurisdictions have resisted pressure from the Mexican government to accept the matricula, others have not; it is now accepted by 800 local law enforcement agencies and 74 banks, as well as 13 states for purposes of obtaining a driver's license.

"Mexico's marketing of its consular cards is a direct challenge to U.S. sovereignty," Dinerstein said. "By aggressively lobbying state and local governments to accept them, Mexico is changing America's de facto immigration policy in lieu of congressional action. And it has been doing so while the U.S. government watched -- or even gave its consent."

Other findings in the report:

  • Not only does the matricula subvert U.S. immigration law, it is not even a secure identity document. Mexico is not authenticating the documents used to obtain the matricula against computerized data files in Mexico.
  • Safeguards are not in place to prevent issuance of matriculas to the same individual; the INS has already reported finding multiple cards in different names issued to the same person.
  • The matricula is becoming a shield that hides criminal activity, for two reasons: first, the holder's identity was not verified when the card was issued and second, police in jurisdictions that accept the matricula are less likely to run background checks on card holders picked up for minor infractions.
  • The acceptance of Mexico's matricula consular sets a precedent, making it almost impossible to reject similar cards presented by illegal aliens from other countries, including those which have sent terrorists to the United States in the past.

The integrity of the matricula received fresh consideration just last week, when the U.S. General Services Administration suspended a pilot program in which a federal building in San Francisco accepted the matricula consular as valid identification to enter the building to access services. Additionally, in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this month, 12 members of Congress questioned the spread of the card and called the lobbying by foreign consulates "a breach of international protocol deserving of a serious response by our government."

Ms. Dinerstein is also author of prior Center papers, IRS Tax ID Numbers Subvert Immigration Law and "America's Identity Crisis: Document Fraud is Pervasive and Pernicious."

The Center for Immigration Studies is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization which examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. It is not affiliated with any other group.