Mexican officials and a California congressman engaged in a verbal battle Thursday over whether it was appropriate for Mexico to set up a consular office on Catalina Island to issue ID cards to illegal immigrants.
Ricardo Alday, senior spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, denied that issuing the "matricular" cards to Mexicans in California — regardless of their immigration status — posed a security risk to the United States "One of the aspects of our consulate is to provide matricular cards in the same way the U.S. provides passports and other official documents to their citizens," said Alday.
But Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., whose district includes Catalina Island, said, "The Mexican government is abusing their agreement with our State Department that allows them to provide appropriate off-site consular services for replacing expired passports by providing documents to illegal aliens."
Mexican government officials on Thursday moved their satellite consular office from the Catalina Island Country Club to St. Catherine's Catholic Church — citing protection under the Vienna Convention.
The management at the club balked at having the matricular cards distributed there after the plan was reported in The Washington Examiner. Rohrabacher said Thursday, "If the Catholic Church insists on preventing immigration law from being enforced, then they should step up and pay the bill."
Many banks and institutions in the United States now accept the matricular card as official identification despite criticism from U.S. law enforcement that the card is unreliable, and that legal immigrants already have more verifiable identification. Matricular cards are almost exclusively a way for illegal immigrants to obtain services in the United States, some law enforcement experts said.
In 2004 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI officials called the card an unreliable form of identification. The agency said that Mexico lacks a centralized database for them, which could lead to forgery, duplication, and other forms of abuse.
Alday said the Mexican government is continuously improving the security of the card.
"We have improved and we are consistently working in improving the database and the security of all the documents," he said. "You know that it is impossible to have 100 percent bulletproof documents just like your U.S. Social Security cards can be forged in the U.S. and abroad. We have been working on it, it's much better and we will continue to do so in the event that they are not secure enough."
U.S. immigration enforcement officials who spoke with The Examiner said that Mexican officials had asked federal and state law enforcement agencies not to intervene in the distribution of ID cards to Mexican citizens.
"Basically, a foreign government inserted itself into my congressional district to provide passports and matricular cards to individuals illegally in the U.S. and residing on Catalina Island," Rohrabacher said. "The Mexican government's action is a declaration that Catalina is their turf. And I'm here to let Mexican government know that this is not acceptable."