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Saturday, February 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
What to do? The state Senate should approve a bill that would authorize state agencies, municipalities and state-chartered banks to accept a Mexico-issued card as valid identification. The measure passed the House 55-41 and mirrors ordinances passed by several practical-minded cities, including Seattle, Bellevue, Renton and Yakima.
The matrícula consular is issued by the Mexican consulate to Mexican nationals. Applicants must appear in person, provide an original birth certificate, government-issued identification and proof of their Washington state address.
No question, the matrícula consular is designed to help people who are in the United States illegally. Others have valid identification, such as passports, visas and green cards.
But these illegal residents harvest our crops, bus our tables and work at other low-wage jobs. Because of their immigration status, they are vulnerable to thieves and fearful of reporting crimes to the authorities. With the card, they can open bank accounts, rent apartments and sign up for utility service. It does not change their immigration status.
House Bill 3029 is a partial answer to the question of how non-federal agencies should deal with this phenomenon in the absence of coherent guidance from the federal government.
Although some Justice Department officials have said they have concerns about the matrícula consular in terms of national security, the U.S. Treasury Department in September reaffirmed rules permitting financial institutions to accept the card. U.S. Bank, Key Bank and Washington Mutual already take it.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Eduardo Aguirre said on a Seattle visit last month that the federal government is still considering the merits of the matrícula consular: "As a state, as a municipality, if you accept that card, that's your problem or your opportunity," he said.
In other words, states, municipalities and businesses are on their own.
That's why Washington state should take this step. The Senate should approve HB 3029, and the governor should sign it.
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