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Mexican Consulate event in South Carolina protested

Last weekend, the Mexican Consulate held an event at the North Charleston Convention Center in South Carolina, offering identification cards and passports as well as other legal services to Mexican citizens. As immigration remains a hotly contested topic in the state and nation, several protestors gathered outside of the two-day event.

The Mexican Consulate, which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, but oversees South Carolina as well, has been offering mobile services in the Charleston area for a handful of years now. Ultimately, the Mexican Consulate provides official identification and passports to its foreign nationals at the events. The consulate provided services to 1,800 people from the metro Charleston area last year.

This year, though, people from the Tea Party and the group Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement protested the event, which they said promotes entering the country from Mexico illegally. The protestors called the identification cards issued by the Mexican Consulate phony IDs and said that people here legally shouldn't need them. Protestors were also upset that the city let the event take place at the convention center for free.

The groups said that the protest was aimed at persuading lawmakers to pass a law that would prevent the Mexican Consulate from supplying the identification cards and passports in the state of South Carolina.

However, members of the Mexican Consulate, leaders from North Charleston and local volunteer advocates told reporters that the protestors have it all wrong. The identification cards, called "matriculas," are not only legal as far as the United States State Department and Geneva Convention are concerned, they also make the state safer, they said.

The matriculas are official documents issued by the Mexican government and require extensive proof of nationality. Close records are kept online to trace identifications back to records in Mexico City, and people seeking identification cards and passports also are photographed and fingerprinted.

A North Charleston city councilwoman said that providing these legal documents helps prevent people from getting illegal or fake identification documents. That way, when police arrest a Mexican person, they have their true identities, she said. The identification cards also make carriers able to open a bank account, said a Mexican native who lived in the United Sates legally for 29 years before becoming a citizen in 2009.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Issuing of Mexican IDs draws protests," David Quick, 4/17/2011.

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