Aiming to help Mexicans | VailDaily.com
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Aiming to help Mexicans

Veronica Whitney

Calzada, who arrived at Mexico’s Denver consulate in April 2001, said last week during a visit to Eagle County that a priority for her is to regularize the status of Mexican immigrants who are living and working in this country.

The 2000 U.S. Census reports there are more than 700,000 Hispanics living in Colorado – 17 percent of the state’s population and nearly a quarter of Eagle County’s population. Of those, 61 percent are Mexicans, Calzada said.

“The economy in the Vail Valley wouldn’t be the same without immigrant workers,” Calzada said. “Mexicans are workers who add to the quality of life in Colorado.”

Calzada prefers to call Mexicans who live in the country without legal documents “undocumented” instead of “illegals” because these are people who help boost the economy, she said.

“For President (Vicente) Fox, Mexicans who live in the U.S. are very important,” Calzada said. “Mexico recognizes Mexicans who are here and contributing by sending money to their families in the poor regions from where they come from in Mexico.

“That’s why we have a compromise to provide them with an identification card.”

For that purpose, the consulate of Mexico is travelling across the country issuing matriculas consulares, which are particularly useful for those without a United States identification card. The ID, which is valid for five years, helps when opening a checking account or applying for a job. Also, it helps to identify Mexican nationals in the case of an accident or to notify family members in an emergency.

In May more than 400 matriculas were issued in Edwards but some Mexicans couldn’t get one because consulate employees couldn’t deal with the high turnout.

“We have to inform our Mexican people that we are understaffed for our needs,” Calzada said. “The consulate is trying to do the job with the same people it had in 1995. We’re doing our best to take care of Mexicans in a country where you need an identification.”

Although many U.S. residents oppose any migratory agreement between Mexico and the United States, employers in Colorado recognize and accept the role of Mexican workers in the state economy, Calzada said.

“Gov. Owens told me that the Mexicans are very important for the state economy,” she said. “I encourage those who agree to contact their legislators in Washington to support a migratory agreement between the two countries.”

Calzada doesn’t like to call the agreement an amnesty. Among other things, Mexico wants the United States to regularize the status of Mexican immigrants who are already working in the country and to expand collaboration between the two countries.

The agreement would include:

– More visas.

– Seasonal employees accepted with work permits.

– Regularization of those who have an established life in the United States.

– Strengthening the borders between the two countries.

– Support from the United States to develop the regions in rural Mexico that send people to the United States because of poverty.

“There are jobs and a need for employees in this country,” she said. “But in Mexico, they are discouraging people to come to the U.S. because there aren’t enough work permits.”

Although negotiations on the agreement between the two countries stalled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Calzada said, the agreement would help with safety issues.

“We’re committed to convince public opinion that Mexico is a U.S. neighbor.

Our neighborhood goes beyond geography. We’re partners in economic development,” she said.

Calzada said she was disappointed earlier this year, when a state Senate committee killed a bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to get a Colorado drivers license or a identification card.

“Colorado is a conservative state, and I’m thrilled that at least we talked about the issue,” she said. “The idea also got support from sheriffs across the state. This was a step forward and I hope we’ll keep trying to build an understanding of these issues.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-055, ext. 45, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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