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El Centro assists the Mexican Consulate with the help of HOLA and Sacred Heart Chapel

By Jordan González, Special to La Prensa

Around 1:00 p.m. last Saturday, María Vargas finally got inside El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Inc., a Latino non-profit organization in Lorain, Ohio, after having been there since 8:00 a.m. She showed some pictures on her phone of how the lines went deep into El Centro’s parking lot even before the doors opened at 8:00 a.m.

The occasion was to attend appointments with the Mobile Consulate of México (based in Detroit), which visited Lorain for the first time ever on April 12, 2014. The Consulate’s services were by appointment only, and they had around 200 people registered to obtain Mexican passports and/or matricula consular, an ID issued by the Mexican government to Mexican citizens living in foreign countries.

Victor Leandry

Victor Leandry, executive director of El Centro, said 166 people were served.

The event was sponsored and organized by Sacred Heart Chapel, a Latino-Catholic church in Lorain. El Centro and Sacred Heart have worked with each other before, said Mr. Leandry. The Lorain chapter of HOLA, a Latino organization based in Painesville, Ohio that helps families dealing with deportation, assisted with several volunteers.

Ms. Vargas was there to get her matricula consular ID. Although she’s gone through the process to get her Mexican passport and matricula before, there always seems to be bumps on the road. There is often confusion as to which documents are needed as proof of ones identification, she said.

“When you call the number to make your appointment, they tell you the requirements that you need,” Ms. Vargas said. “Sometimes they say one thing and when you arrive, they require other things.”  The reason is because the office that tells people what is required doesn’t work for the Consulate and doesn’t always have all the information, Ms. Vargas said.

The Consulate has very strict requirements to obtain the passport and the matricula, which sometimes annoys those waiting to obtain their documents, Ms. Vargas said.

For example, if the documents aren’t photocopied correctly they won’t be accepted. Sometimes even the smallest detail holds up the process – one of Vargas’ documents was printed on paper that was longer than her other documents. She was required to cut it to size with some scissors provided by a lady in line, which drew laughter from many.

Finally, her documents were accepted and she was on her way to get her matricula, although her husband wasn’t able to renew his passport because he didn’t have documents that had both of his Mexican last names.

The matricula is extremely important for Mexicans living in the United States, Ms. Vargas said. It is often accepted as a valid form of ID in the U.S., especially with banks and business-related situations.

“This has the address and all of someone’s personal data,” Ms. Vargas continued. “It’s an ID that, since in the U.S. the undocumented can’t get an ID, is the only thing that’s worth something.”

Deputy Consul Vicente Colmenares Sumano said the card helps Mexican citizens prove they are Mexican and their personal identity in the U.S. He also noted it contains a security strip to prevent fraudulent copies. “It’s a very reliable document,” Consul Sumano said.

Ms. Vargas said the Mobile Consulate was incredibly convenient for Mexican Nationals, who need their matricula consular and/or their passports. Every other time she has needed to update or obtain documents from the Consulate she had to go to Detroit, where the nearest permanent Consulate is based for Michigan and Northern Ohio residents.  

For many Mexican citizens in the U.S., it was a difficult process, as those who aren’t U.S. citizens worry about driving the long distance without a driver’s license. For those that can find a ride, they are usually charged a lot of money, said Ms. Vargas. It is also very risky for those without the proper documents.

“And lately the fear of even driving through other states or other cities because of the border patrol stopping people and deporting people. From my standpoint it was very important for the community to bring [the Mexican Consulate] over here and make them accessible,” Director Leandry concluded.

If an undocumented Mexican citizen is pulled over for a minor infraction such as a speeding ticket, the police often alert la migra, said Dan Radocaj, fiscal director at El Centro. HOLA is supporting such an individual who was recently stopped in a vehicle near Painesville.

“A simple speeding ticket could turn into a whole deportation situation, and all you’re trying to do is get documents to be legal,” Radocaj said. “It’s kind of lopsided.”

Having the consulate come to Lorain is also more convenient, Ms. Vargas said, and she noted that many of those in attendance were coming from the surrounding cities such as Akron, Canton, Fremont, Norwalk, and Toledo.

“Sometimes the people don’t have the time to leave during the week up there [in Detroit],” Ms. Vargas said. “Over here it’s much easier [since it’s held] on a Saturday and it’s closer.”

Editor’s Note:
Jordan González is a freelance writer and photographer. He is currently in his senior year at Cleveland State University where he will graduate with a degree in Journalism in May of 2014. He has worked with several student newspapers and has interned at Ohio Magazine. When he’s not watching the Houston Rockets or the US and México soccer teams, he’s probably working on his articles or listening to music. Follow him on Twitter @jordanrgonzo. 

Jordan González


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/15/14 19:16:32 -0700.




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