Immigration issues took up a lot of the discussion time. Carolina (Aguilera) Phillips, a paralegal with the DiFranco Law Office, spends the better part of her time in the firm’s North Toledo office dealing with potential deportations and trying to keep families together.
The Mexican Cónsul promised to help immigration detainees whenever possible. His consulate has jurisdiction over Michigan and northern Ohio.
“We can get involved and get a lawyer to come. But it has to be basically human rights issues for us to get involved,” said Juan Manuel Solana, General Cónsul of México.
“The second thing we do is to try to visit the prisons to see how they are doing. If you know of someplace with some complaints, please send me an email so I can put it into the program to visit.”
The Mexican Cónsul also spoke of a program that his office offers which encourages Mexican immigrants to pursue dual citizenship, but stated emphatically that “they need to register.” The key, he said, is their nationality. But it must be promoted so they can register.
Ms. Phillips also raised the issue of when law enforcement asks an immigrant for identification and a matricular consular ID card is shown, then federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are called to determine an immigrant is undocumented.
“It has nothing to do with legality,” explained Cónsul Solana. “I think it’s a very important tool for police, because it has three elements—their name, their date of birth, and the address where they live. It’s a real ID and we keep records, fingerprints, pictures.”
He encouraged Ms. Phillips and others to have police call his office and he will verify the ID for them. He also stated his desire to go to a police academy and train officers about the matricular ID “and other significant issues.”
The cónsul of México had a same-day meeting scheduled with Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins where he intended to request such a training session with police, but the meeting was postponed. Mayor Collins received a last-minute invitation to attend a Washington, D.C. summit on homeless veterans and was traveling Wednesday morning.
“That’s a big, red flag when they show they’re from another country,” explained Ms. Phillips.
“When they do that, we could make a case for profiling,” countered Solana Morales. “We can make a case for someone who is here legally, shows a matricular ID, because they call immigration, we can sue. We are willing to pay for a lawyer. We just need one person willing to do that for us. We just have to prove they’re here legally.”
But the cónsul of México warned that proving such a case and winning is both “tricky” and “complicated.” He did state the Mexican Consulate did win such a case in Kentucky, because the people who were stopped were legal U.S. citizens.
“In that case, it was enough to scare all of the police in the area,” he said.
Ramón Pérez, community organizer for ONE Village Council, which is affiliated with the United North community development corporation, stated an effort is underway in North Toledo to make it “an intentional point of destination for Latinos and immigrants,” in order to repopulate the area.
“We want to be more immigrant-friendly,” he said, inviting the Mexican consulate to come and help promote the effort. The CDC intends to help undocumented immigrants get to whatever legal status they can.
The two men talked of hosting a festival-like special event at the Ohio Theatre for Latino families, possibly inviting El Corazón de México Ballet Folklorico. Elaina Hernández, director of the dance troupe, admitted some of her dancers are undocumented immigrants, but she only finds out if they confide in her. The aim of the event would be to draw families, who could then meet with the consulate of México individually for assistance.
Sr. Pérez also is working with Baldemar Velásquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) to host a community forum on alleged ethnic profiling by law enforcement. He stated the forum is likely to be held toward the end of June.
“There’s going to be a forum to challenge local law enforcement and possibly surrounding law enforcement, Oregon and other places, to let them know that profiling is against the law and involve human rights issues,” he said. “So we’re going to raise the issue up very high.”
“Sometimes with the presence of the consulate we can raise up the sensitivity a little bit,” said Solana. “It’s important that we get involved. We want to. If we can get a good relationship with the chiefs, it can help to solve the problem.”
The consulate of México also promoted the distribution of nearly 30 Spanish –language pamphlets his office has printed, promoting how immigrants can get a passport, get a visa, how to get a driver’s license, what to do when detained by police, and other common issues they face. He passed out samples of the pamphlets, hoping to establish a central distribution point in the Toledo area “so people can get educated,” he said.
“I want to empower the Mexican population,” he said. “If we empower them, they will be able to fight for their own rights. The second thing is I want a better image for México.”
Other people in attendance were Jesús Angel (managing partner of El Camino Real), José Luna (Hispanic liaison to Toledo Public Schools), Federico Martínez (The Blade), Rico de la Prensa, Adrianne Chasteen and Adrianne Chasteen II (La Prensa), and Andrés Lawrence (intern at the consulate).