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Monday, July 12, 2004

Ukiah Daily Journal Online - Local Mexican nationals get ID cards

Ukiah Daily Journal Online - Local

Local Mexican nationals get ID cards
By PEIJEAN TSAI

Monday, July 12, 2004 -
The Daily Journal
Hundreds of Mexican nationals living locally were set to be issued Mexican Consulate cards Saturday at Nuestra Casa, the Ukiah bilingual agency that provides cultural events and counseling in Spanish.

The Mexican-government issued identification card, known as matricula consular, can be used throughout most of California to obtain public services like marriage certificates, business licenses and library cards. The card does not give individuals the rights of a U.S. citizen or legal residency.

Approximately 400 locals -- mostly farmworkers -- living in Ukiah, Willits, Redwood Valley and Potter Valley were expected Friday to be issued the cards by the San Francisco Mexican Consulate.

Card holders can also use it to apply for senior citizen discount bus fares, to open up bank accounts and when reporting crimes to local law enforcement.

With the card, local immigrant workers without a U.S. Social Security Number are able to cash paychecks without having to pay fees as high as ten percent to non-bank check-cashing agencies, said Moises Soria, a family center coordinator with Nuestra Casa.

"Now with the matricula, they don't have to pay anything," Soria said.

The card, which has been issued to Mexican nationals since 1870, features the applicant's signature, photo and a serial number. An updated version of the card in 2002 includes 12 security features, including five invisible ones.

The card can also act as a passport for those that return to Mexico.

To issue the card, the Mexican government requires an original Mexico birth certificate, and a photo ID card, a passport, or an election card with a photograph and thumbprint. Applicants must also provide proof of a 6-month residence in the U.S.

Approximately 150 to 200 cards are issued a day from the San Francisco office, said Augustine Pradillo, a San Francisco Mexican Consulate spokesman.

Besides public benefits, the matricula also establishes contact between the Mexican Consulate and the cardholders, so that the Consulate can serve as an agency to hear cardholders' concerns of protection and legal issues, Pradillo added.

Mexican nationals can apply at the regional Mexican Consulate in which they live. There are ten offices in California, and each has a mobile unit that travels throughout a region. The San Francisco Mexican Consulate has a mobile unit that covers Ukiah.

That mobile unit typically comes only once a year to Ukiah, said Soria. In past years it has visited twice a year, he added.

The card is currently accepted as valid identification in dozens of cities and counties throughout California, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Fresno and Monterey and a handful of San Diego county cities.

The Mendocino County's Sheriff's Office and Ukiah Police Department accept the card as valid identification.

The matricula consular has also been the subject of much debate in the California state Legislature.

The bill, SB 1160, introduced by Los Angeles Sen. Gil Cedillo, is currently being considered in the state Legislature and by the governor. The bill would allow illegal immigrants without Social Security numbers to apply for a driver's license with the matricula consular.

Last fall, former Gov. Gray Davis vetoed an Assembly bill, AB 522, that would have mandated all agencies statewide to accept the card as official identification. The bill was introduced by San Jose Assemblyman Manny Diaz and North Coast Assemblywoman Patty Berg was one of the legislation's 13 co-authors.

This article contains reports from The Associated Press.

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