City Council recognizes Mexican IDs

In a 5-2 vote, the Durham City Council resolved to allow the Durham Police Department to accept Mexican-issued identification Monday night.

The vote was primarily a symbolic gesture, as DPD already accepts the use of the matrícula consular as a form of identification, DPD Chief Jose Lopez said.

The original resolution, which was promoted by the Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the Durham Immigrants Solidarity Committee, underwent a number of changes after Mayor Bill Bell deemed its goals too broad. Bell eliminated from the resolution clauses he felt the Council could not enforce, like those that force entities like libraries and banks to accept matrículas.

“The resolution needed to be more narrowly focused,” Bell said.

The matrícula consular is issued by Mexican consulates in the United States as a way of proving the cardholder is a Mexican national. According to the resolution, allowing the use of the matrícula would “assist in minimizing unnecessary and potentially life-changing arrests of hard-working citizens guilty of no more than a minor traffic infraction.” The matrícula consular serves as the primary form of identification for many Hispanic immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden said the resolution confirms a status quo that protects immigrants’ rights, but City Council members Eugene Brown and Howard Clement voted against the resolution, arguing that it does not fall under the purview of the Council.

“It’s not the responsibility of the City Council to vote on issues regarding immigration,” Brown said. “It’s a federal issue.”

Since he became DPD chief three years ago, Lopez has allowed officers to accept the matrícula in order to allow Latinos with “documentation issues” the ability to report crimes without fear of deportation.

“The significance of the vote is to garner trust from the Hispanic community,” he said.

The meeting allowed input from Durham residents who had signed up to speak, albeit with a two-minute limit. Durhamites on both sides of the issue were highly vocal, leading Bell to call for order several times. He asked the audience not to applaud after specific presentations and went as far as to expel several members who loudly voiced their opposition. On their expulsion, several Hispanics watching the proceedings in the City Hall’s lobby clapped enthusiastically.

Durham resident Kathy Chander suggested that immigration can help the U.S. by allowing it to compete economically with rising powers like China and India.

“Any immigrant that starts a business hiring someone other than a relative should get a visa,” she said.

One of the main concerns regarding the acceptance of the matrícula is its vulnerability to fraud. Durham resident David Lister said the FBI has rejected the card because the government of Mexico keeps no centralized database of who has been issued matrículas, making them easy to forge. Other audience members said the use of the card could prove a threat to national security.

In order to avoid fraud, DPD was given plastics by the Mexican consulate in Raleigh to be placed over the card to verify its legitimacy, Lopez said.

But Victoria Peterson, another Durham resident, believes the cards are an illegitimate form of identification.

“Some of us work in the community to encourage our youngsters not to break the law. Here the city is breaking the law,” she said.

Many of those present were Hispanics in favor of the vote. During his presentation, Rev. Ricardo Correa, associate pastor at Ministerio Guerrero de Jesucristo in Durham, asked those who would be affected by the resolution’s outcome to stand up. Nearly everyone in the auditorium did.

“Every person has a right to identify themselves,” he said.

The resolution also received support from non-Hispanics.

Durhamite Joan Walsh said illegal immigration is largely a consequence of U.S. trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Immigration may be a national-level issue, but justice and fairness are local issues,” she said. “No human being is illegal.”

After the residents spoke, Brown said he was puzzled that the resolution had been transformed from a public safety issue into a political one.

“Are we simply being used to satisfy someone’s political agenda?” he asked.


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