Consular IDs Help Illegals Evade Immigration Law; GAO Cites Policy Weaknesses on Mexican, Guatemalan Cards

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 30, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Consular IDs Help Illegals Evade Immigration Law; GAO Cites Policy Weaknesses on Mexican, Guatemalan Cards


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Foreign nationals illegally in the United States are using identification cards issued by the governments of Mexico and Guatemala to avoid apprehension and deportation, a government report said.

According to the Government Accountability Office, weaknesses in U.S. government policy regarding the issuance of the cards, also known as matricular consular cards, failed to prevent their delivery to and use by illegal aliens.

The report, released this week, said the cards provide "a perfect way to establish new identities and ensure that aliens' names won't come up on terrorist watch lists or criminal databases." Without consistent guidance by the federal government on the advisability of accepting the cards, the report said, the risk was higher that they would be used to establish false identities.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the use of millions of consular identification cards by illegal aliens presents a national security threat and undermines U.S. immigration laws.

"Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly clear Congress will need to provide strong and clear direction to regulate these cards, as well as establishing civil penalties for federal officials who flaunt enforcement of the law," said Mr. Sensenbrenner, who requested the GAO report.

The GAO said the mere possession of a card - obtained from foreign consulate offices in the United States - did not certify legal residence, but only that cardholders "may be either legal or undocumented aliens." It said millions of consular cards are being accepted by U.S. government agencies, despite counterfeiting and security concerns.

The FBI has said the consular cards pose criminal and terrorist threats, are easy to obtain through fraud and inadequate security measures, are not reliable forms of identification, can facilitate crimes such as money laundering and alien smuggling, and can help terrorists move around the United States with ease.

The GAO said Mexico issued 2.2 million of the cards in 2002 and 2003, while Guatemala issued about 89,000.

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