Undocumented immigrant victory: LA City Council votes to honor Mexican IDs

LOS ANGELES – Supporters of immigrant rights won an important victory last month when the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 in favor a six-month trial plan to honor identification cards issued by the Mexican Consulate as valid identification for undocumented immigrants.

The ID card, known as the matricula consular or consular registry, will contain the holder’s place and date of birth and current address, with a photo identification. During the six-month period, the ID will help provide immigrants who are ineligible for Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses or other official U.S. identification, with access to many of the same city services as other residents.

Being able to prove ID will also make everyday life much easier for immigrant workers and their families, who have experienced increased discrimination, violations of civil liberties and undue suspicion in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

“These workers basically live in the shadow of our city,” said Victor Narro, a project director with the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). Narro hailed the decision, saying it will help hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers, such as day laborers, restaurant workers and domestics, who are key to the region’s economy.

In addition to CHIRLA, the decision received the broad support of a unique alliance between immigrant rights groups, police, sheriffs and banks who all applauded the City Council’s action as a necessary measure for dignity, economic well-being and community security.

The Los Angeles Police Department strongly supported this measure because, they testified, it will help safeguard neighborhoods from slumlords and other criminals who prey on undocumented residents who are afraid to call police.

The city now joins a number of municipalities in the state that recognize the Mexican Consulate ID, including San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim and Santa Ana. Phoenix, Ariz., Albuquerque, N.M., Austin, Texas, and other cities across the nation also accept the ID.

Many banks and credit unions now accept the matricula consular to open accounts. Wells Fargo has signed up 25,000 new customers since it began to accept the ID last November.

The Mexican government is encouraging its 48 consulates within the U.S. to promote the ID cards. As a result, they expect more than 850,000 people to sign up for the cards this year, a 30 percent increase over last year.

While the acceptance of the card does not prevent deportation or establish legalization – a primary goal of immigrant rights groups and the labor movement today – it is seen as an important step for democratic rights for undocumented workers. It is a recognition that immigrants are hard-working and crucial contributors to our nation, who deserve access to the basic services that all families require for normal living.

The author can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.com