Fox Promotes Mexican ID Cards
In Chicago to open a new consulate, he urges U.S. local governments to recognize the documents.
Nathaniel Hernandez, AP, OCRegister.com (CA), Jun. 17
CHICAGO — Arriving for a three-day visit to the Midwest, President Vicente Fox said Wednesday that Mexicans in the United States have improved their standard of living but still must fight for greater opportunities.
At a ceremony commemorating the opening of an $8 million Mexican Consulate in Chicago, the 61-year-old Fox said more progress must be made as Mexican immigrants struggle for access to education, jobs and social services.
He also called on municipalities to recognize identification cards handed out by Mexican consulates to immigrants as legal forms of ID. Opponents say the cards, known as matricula consular, allow illegal immigrants access to services they otherwise might not be able to receive.
Fox said access is important because as Mexican immigrants succeed in the U.S., so does their native country.
“We are Mexicans who live in our territories, and we are Mexicans who live in other territories,” he said in a 20-minute speech in Spanish. “In reality, we are 120 million people who live together and are working to construct a nation.”
Mexicans in the United States have played an increasingly vital role in the economies of both countries. Last year, they sent an estimated $12 billion to $14.5 billion home to Mexico, exceeding for the first time income from foreign investments and tourism.
On Tuesday, Fox introduced legislation that would allow Mexican émigrés to vote in the 2006 presidential election without returning to their homeland as required now.
Fox’s visit to Chicago was the first stop in a three-day Midwest tour. He leaves Chicago today for planned stops in Michigan and Minnesota.
Chicago has the second largest Mexican immigrant community in the country, behind Los Angeles. According to the 2000 census, 1.1 million Mexicans live in Illinois, most of them in the Chicago area.
The number of Mexican immigrants living in the United States as a whole nearly doubled in the past decade from 4.3 million in 1990 to an estimated 9.9 million in 2002, according to census data.
The new Chicago consulate is the first of its kind built by the Mexican government, said consulate spokeswoman Noemi Ordaz. During a visit to Chicago in 2001, Fox vowed to build the new consulate to replace one that was prone to crowding and long lines.
Mexican immigrants from several Midwestern states travel to Chicago to use the services of the consulate. Roughly 250,000 immigrants visit each year, Ordaz said.
One of its most popular services is the issuing the matricula consular ID cards, which can be used to open bank accounts and transact other business. The consulate has issued about 300,000 of the cards since March 2002, Ordaz said.
On Wednesday, hundreds of community leaders, including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, gathered at the consulate for Fox’s visit.
Outside, about 100 supporters and a handful of protesters gathered. Among the supporters was 37-year-old Ramon Velasco, who came from Mexico in 1973.
“In my opinion, Fox is a pioneer and an activist because he has been doing what needs to be done to get Mexican immigrants driver’s licenses and IDs,” Velasco said.