NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mexican I.D. Card Sparks Criminal, Security Concerns

March 25, 2004

The matricula consular, a Mexican identification card carried chiefly by illegal immigrants, is now accepted in 160 counties and 360 cities across the United States, primarily as a tool to open up bank accounts and to acquire certain amenities such as library cards. Eleven states recognize the cards as appropriate pieces of ID to obtain a driver's license.

The 45 Mexican consulates in the United States issued more than 1.9 million ID cards in 2002 and 2003. While supporters say the cards will help police identify individuals they pull over, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have concluded that matriculas are not reliable and pose a criminal and terrorist threat:

  • The Mexican consulates lack adequate security measures -- identification required to obtain the cards is easily forged and has become a hot item in the fraudulent-document trade.
  • Cards can obtained without identification so long as one fills out a form and demonstrates sufficient sincerity to the issuing officer.
  • The FBI has cited instances where alien smugglers have been arrested with up to seven different cards and an Iranian national who was arrested with a matricula consular in his name.
  • Seven of the 19 suicide hijackers involved in Sept. 11 attacks obtained drivers' licenses in Virginia, which at the time did not require proof of legal presence.

Municipalities have had to determine the merits of these ID cards on their own, given the federal government's refusal to take a stance on the issue. Of course, notes Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, matriculas would become irrelevant in the event Congress enacts President Bush's proposal to grant temporary visas to undocumented workers.

Source: Michelle Mittelstadt, "Mexican ID Cards Face Value Questioned," Dallas Morning News, March 19, 2004.


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