March 28, 2014. The Columbus Dispatch.
An interdenominational group in Columbus wants law enforcement and city agencies to accept identification cards for Mexican nationals that are issued by their consulate.
BREAD — short for Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity — has been pushing local leaders to recognize the cards, called matricula consulares, as valid ID since last year.
More than 50 religious congregations make up the group, and more than 100 people attended a public meeting on the topic yesterday at Christ the King Catholic Church on the East Side.
Recognizing IDs for immigrants, many of whom now live in the shadows, would go a long way toward making Columbus a more-welcoming city, several religious leaders said.
Becoming a welcoming city “is not something we have to get cops to agree to. It’s the future,” said the Rev. Richard A. Burnett of Trinity Episcopal Church Downtown.
Without identification, undocumented immigrants can’t access the few public services available to them, said Raquel Diaz-Sprague, a BREAD board member representing Immaculate Conception Church in Clintonville.
It also perpetuates the fear many immigrants have of going to police, even when they are the victim of a crime, she said. “Everybody should feel safe to report a crime in the city of Columbus and not be afraid to do so because they don’t have identification.”
The cards are available to Mexican citizens living abroad regardless of their immigrant status, said representatives of the Mexican Consulate office in Indiana at the meeting.
“Having a matricula consular doesn’t mean a person is undocumented,” said Breanna Rodriguez of the consulate’s protection department.
BREAD also wants local officials to enhance police training related to racial profiling and to establish an independent hot line for residents to report suspected police misconduct.
It’s also asking central Ohio law-enforcement agencies to stop helping federal officials deport undocumented immigrants who aren’t convicted criminals, violent offenders or a threat to national security.
A number of cities across the country, including Chicago and Dayton, recognize the consular cards as official ID, said Jessica Ramos, a lawyer with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Dayton who lives in Dublin.
People can use them to enroll children in school, open a bank account, sign up for utilities or as proof of their identify if questioned by police, she said.
Since Dayton officials started accepting the cards in 2005, the number of deportations has dropped dramatically, Ramos said. It helped that the Dayton police chief decided in 2008 that city resources shouldn’t be spent on enforcing federal immigration laws, she said.
Columbus doesn’t accept the cards because of security concerns, said Napoleon Bell, executive director of the city’s Community Relations Commission. “I think a better alternative is comprehensive immigration reform.”
Critics say the cards, which cost $29 and are issued for five years, are too easily obtained, too easily forged and impossible to independently verify. They also question whether undocumented immigrants should even have access to public services.
But Mexican consulate officials said yesterday that the cards have safeguards, including a hologram, magnetic strip and hidden images that are verifiable with a decoder. All the names are entered into a centralized database so that multiple cards aren’t issued. And a photograph, fingerprint and signature are kept for everyone who applies for a card or other documents.
Although fake matricula consulares have surfaced in Dayton, they’re easy to identify, said Maj. Brian Johns of the Dayton Police Department.
“It isn’t any worse of a problem than the fake ID cards we see from underage drinkers who attend the University of Dayton,” Johns said. “As far as I’m concerned, the benefits far outweigh any concerns.”