Mexican ID Cards Carry Legal Perils; an Identification Card Issued by the Mexican Government to Its Citizens Living Illegally in the United States Exposes Local and State Officials Here to Civil and Criminal Liability. (the Nation: Illegal Immigration)

Article excerpt

News reports appear daily about federal law-enforcement agencies expending enormous resources to try to locate legal and illegal immigrants from countries now considered enemies of the United States who have disappeared through Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) cracks. On the other hand, elected officials at the local, state and federal levels seem ignorant of the relevant laws which govern immigration matters--laws that these elected officials swore to uphold when they took the oath of office. Under the U.S. Code of Criminal Justice, U.S.C. Section 1325, foreign nationals who illegally enter the United States are criminals. In fact, U.S.C. Section 1324A makes it a crime to hire an illegal alien and, under 8 U.S.C. Section 1324, it is a crime to transport and/or harbor illegal aliens.

The law further states that financial institutions may be found guilty of engaging in money laundering (18 U.S.C. Section 1956), tax evasion (26 U.S.C. Section 7201), racketeering (18 U.S.C. Section 1962), conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government (18 U.S.C. Section 371) and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements (31 U.S.C. Section 5324) if they provide bank accounts without proper identification such as a Social Security or tax-identification number.

But, contrary to popular belief and the clear intent of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees equal protection under the law, some people are being treated as if they were above the law. Among these are Mexican nationals illegally residing and working in the United States. Because their numbers are so great--now estimated at nearly 4 million--U.S. authorities have looked the other way as Mexican officials have issued them identification cards to be used as credentials in the United States. Meanwhile, Mexican officials actively lobby city officials throughout the U.S. to accept this document, called a matricula consular, as legally valid identification. The card is issued at Mexican consular offices in the United States upon the payment of $29 and presentation of a birth certificate and photo ID.

Critics say the problem with the card, which is valid for five years, is that U.S. law enforcement has no way of verifying any of the information used to obtain it. And, in the face of the 9/11 attacks, there are greater concerns, not least of which is the liability to cities and institutions in the United States that accept the matricula consular as identification.

Michael Hethmon, an attorney for the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), tells INSIGHT that beyond the obvious breaches of immigration law involved in requiring acceptance of the matricula consular, cities and localities could be facing civil and criminal liabilities.

For example, the city of Holland, Mich., recently considered a proposal to accept the Mexican ID in the municipality and solicited an opinion from FAIR. In a 12-page letter to the clerk of the city, Hethmon laid out the civil and criminal liabilities that could befall Holland officials and employees. The following are just a few mentioned by the FAIR attorney:

* A state or local government official or employee who provides any benefit or service to such a presenter exhibits the criminal intent necessary for a felony indictment under 8 U.S.C. Section 1324. It is a sufficient showing of intent for a Section 1324 conviction that the offender "recklessly ignored the possibility" of the alien's illegal presence in the U.S.

* A local or state government official who accepts a matricula consular as stand-alone identification would be subject to criminal liability under any of four related alien-smuggling felonies:

I. The Immigration and Nationality Act 274 (a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it a felony for any person to "conceal, harbor or shelter from detection" any alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation, "knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered or remained in the U. …

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