Consul General of Mexico (Raleigh) visits Beaufort
Beaufort's Community Bible Church played host to Carlos Flores-Vizcarra, the Consul General Of Mexico (Raleigh, NC) and his mobile consulate staff last month as hundreds of Low Country Latinos converged on the coastal South Carolina city to avail themselves of a variety of consular services.
Community Bible Church is a large non-denominational church with a very active Hispanic ministry. The church offers weekly Spanish-language services in both Beaufort and Hilton Head, led by bilingual pastor, Ed Vernoy. During the consular visit, he and several other local Hispanic pastors attended a special information seminar led by the Consul General as an estimated 1200 Mexican nationals stood in long lines that snaked throughout the church auditorium, presenting personal ID documents so they could update their passports, get birth certificates for their US-born children, and obtain official Mexican IDs called matricula consulares.
“During these visits, we also publicize the other services offered by our consulate,” Flores-Vizcarra said. “We have a legal assistance program. We offer assistance and support to Mexicans detained in state or federal prisons. We give families money to help them repatriate the remains of their loved ones who die while on US soil. We offer assistance to Mexicans who are hospitalized. We work with families in the repatriation of their children. And we help to locate missing Mexican nationals through our consular network.”
“Education services include computer labs offered at our Plazas Comunitaria program; matching scholarship funds offered through our IME Becas program; and health education and diagnostic fairs we offer throughout the year,” he added.
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of the popular Consular ID program. During that time, the Mexican Consular network has expedited more than 5 million matrículas consulares, including 93,000 in South Carolina.
“Our goal is to make it easier for Mexican citizens to obtain these important documents without having to travel all the way to our headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina,” Flores-Vizcarra said. “Our services are available to all Mexican citizens living in both North and South Carolina and our goal is to make sure that those living down here get the same level of service as everyone else.”
An experienced diplomat with an easy smile, Flores-Vizcarra referred to a variety of demographic studies to paint a profile of South Carolina's Hispanic population.
“According to the US census of 2010, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the country, constituting 16.3% of the population,” he said. “Here in South Carolina, immigrants account for large and growing shares of both the population and the economy. At last count, businesses owned by Latinos and Asians had sales and receipts of $4.6 billion and employed more than 29,000 people”
According to Flores-Vizcarra, recent laws enacted by South Carolina legislators against undocumented workers may have unintended consequences during a time of economic recession and he presented data refuting the claim that this group pays no taxes.
“If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from South Carolina, the state would lose $1.8 billion in economic activity, $782.9 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,059 jobs,” he said. “Unauthorized immigrants in South Carolina paid $43.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010, which includes $9 million in state income taxes, $3.5 million in property taxes and $31.1 million in sales taxes.
Recently, events like the one in Beaufort have drawn protests from anti-immigrant groups who argue that the Mexican Consulate is promoting illegal activity by issuing documents that recipients might use to obtain government services like drivers licenses and the right to vote in US elections. Some state legislators have even crafted legislation that would outlaw the use of the matricula consulare.
“It is very ironic that those people regard the matricula program as illegal when its very purpose is to discourage illegal activity,” Flores-Vizcarra said. “ First of all, undocumented Mexicans are not eligible to obtain any official American ID or any other document that would allow them to receive US government services or the right to vote. The matricula consulare is produced under very rigorous procedures using biometric data and other hi-tech security features and it gives law enforcement officials a very important tool for recognizing and identifying Mexican Nationals. The high security matrícula program is intended to encourage Mexicans in the USA to stop using fraudulent IDs.”
Flores-Vizcarra said that the government-issued ID also provides several other important functions including official IDs for court appearances, visits for medical treatment, enrolling children in school, vinmates in prisons and obtaining legal services for their American-born children.
For more information about the services offered to South Carolina's Mexican nationals by the Consul General of Mexico, please visit their website at www.sre.gob.mx/raleigh or call: (919) 754-0046, (919) 752-1726 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org