Another chance for a Mexican ID |

Another chance for a Mexican ID

Veronica Whitney

Two weeks ago the Denver-based Mexican consulate came to Eagle County to help local Mexican nationals to get photo identification cards, which are particularly useful for those without U.S. identification. But after issuing about 400 “matriculas consulares,” as the Mexican IDs are called, the consulate’s five employees ran out of time and couldn’t assist the rest of the people waiting in line.

“It was a successful “movil consulate”; we issued 397 Matriculas,” said Mario Hernandez, spokesman for the consulate.

The matricula, 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 case of an accident or emergency.

Hernandez said the five representatives, who made themselves available at the elementary school at St. Claire of Assisi church from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., couldn’t handle more applicants.

“They were overwhelmed,” he said. “It was impossible to do that many IDs. It takes about 20 minutes to process just one application.”

The mobile consulate, which travels across the state, will come back to the Vail Valley, Hernandez said – but he couldn’t say when.

So, for those who didn’t get their IDs Saturday, the consulate will be open on Saturday June 8 all day to issue the document.

“We’ve found a large response in all the regions we’ve visited,” Hernandez said. “We see a growth in the Hispanic population everywhere in the state. Mexican citizens are working in all parts of U.S. economy – agriculture, construction, tourist industry.

“(But) in Eagle County, we’re seeing a more dynamic growth.”

As a result of the high demand, the consulate also is planning to assign more consular workers to assist.

Forty-six Mexican consulates in the United States are issuing the matriculas, which some banks – including Wells Fargo, Bank One, US Bank and Alpine Bank – are now accepting the document to open accounts or conduct other financial transactions. Otherwise, banks ask for an ID that is officially recognized, such as a drivers license.

The Mexican ID will help millions of Mexican immigrants who don’t have U.S. bank accounts. The Federal Reserve Bank, for example, estimates as many as 25 percent of the nation’s Hispanics lack bank accounts. Many pay expensive fees to check-cashing services and wire services to transfer money to relatives in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

“We’re aware that people were waiting there and were upset that they couldn’t get the matriculas,” Hernandez said.

In the past year, demand for the identification card has skyrocketed. In 2000, the Denver consulate issued 9,310 matriculas. The next year it issued more than double that, or 20,120; and after the first two months of 2002, it had already issued 5,247.

The trend, however, has drawn fire from activists who want illegal immigrants out of the United States and consider matriculas the favored identification of illegals.

“We want to emphasize this is not a work permit,” Hernandez said.

The Denver consulate also is working to get the matriculas recognized by different organizations, in addition to the banks. Several police and sheriff agencies in other states already have agreed to recognize the ID cards as legitimate proof of identification.

“After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it has become more important to have an identification card,” Hernandez said. “Law officials are happy because the matriculas help them identify some Mexican nationals who don’t have a U.S. ID.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at

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