Skip to comments.Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles Exudes Power and Energy
Posted on 03/14/2003 11:20:44 PM PST by sarcasm
OS ANGELES, March 14 It was 7:30 a.m., and 1,000 Mexicans, many of them recent immigrants, jammed the gritty sidewalks outside the Mexican Consulate here recently, waiting for everything from medical examinations for the sick to legal help for the imprisoned.
Consul General Martha I. Lara Alatorre, who with a bulldog's persistence has become an influential advocate for millions of Mexican-born workers in Los Angeles, was backslapping her way through the crowd.
"How're we doing, paisano?" Ms. Lara greeted a man who was waiting for consular help in shipping the body of his wife, dead of cancer, back to Mexico. She bear-hugged a young hotel maid, an illegal immigrant who hoped to apply for an identification card issued by the consulate that would allow her to open an American bank account.
"I have more constituents than the mayor of Los Angeles," Ms. Lara, a former senator for the State of Chihuahua, said, only half in jest.
She and her 70-member staff offer services to 4.7 million Mexicans in the sprawl of greater Los Angeles, while the population of Mayor James K. Hahn's core city is 3.6 million.
Ms. Lara's consulate is one of the busiest diplomatic missions in the world, serving a city that includes the largest concentration of Mexicans outside Mexico City. Its range of services often makes Ms. Lara seem more like a governor than a diplomat. She inaugurates immigrant-owned businesses, certifies births, marries lovers and crowns beauty queens.
Her work opens a window on the extraordinary growth and evolution of the Latino population in the United States as it moves into the political and economic mainstream after decades in the shadows.
Most of the Mexicans who visit the consulate are janitors, garbage collectors and other menial workers who keep Southern California humming. But Ms. Lara also entertains a stream of visiting Mexican politicians, and she attends to Mexican-born glitterati like the boxer Oscar De La Hoya and the actress Salma Hayek, whom the ambassador recently whisked into the consulate through a basement entrance, out of the glare of the Hollywood paparazzi, to process a passport.
In an interview, Ms. Lara said her greatest achievement was to persuade Wells Fargo, the bank based in San Francisco, to accept consular ID as proof of identity for opening an account at its thousands of branches in 23 states. Since Wells Fargo took that decision, in November 2001, at least 70,000 Mexicans have opened accounts, said Miriam Galícia Duarte, a spokeswoman for the bank.
Dozens of other banks, including Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, have also agreed to honor the ID, as have many American cities and counties. Ms. Lara's consulate issued 160,000 ID's last year, and other consulates issued thousands more.
Immigration experts said the widespread acceptance of the ID was a watershed in the lives of millions of Mexicans who work in the United States without valid immigration documents and previously lacked any legal identification. The card allows them not only to obtain banking services, but also to participate more fully in American life in ways like reporting crimes, traveling on planes and renting videos.
But groups seeking to curb illegal immigration are outraged.
"This is an attempt by the Mexican government to bring about a de facto amnesty for illegal aliens," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group in Washington that seeks tighter enforcement of immigration laws. "These Mexican officials are meeting with mayors, police chiefs and newspaper editors to make the case that this Mexican card should be accepted as legitimate within the United States. Why are we permitting it?"
In the 1990's, some politicians blamed illegal immigrants for many of California's economic woes, and Mexican diplomats often drew criticism if they spoke up for immigrants. Last week in San Diego, there was a new dispute after law enforcement authorities used a spike belt to stop a pickup speeding along an Interstate. The truck crashed, killing two people and injuring 20, most of them illegal immigrants. Rodulfo Figueroa Aramoni, the Mexican consul general in San Diego, criticized the authorities for "gross negligence." The California Highway Patrol and the Border Patrol faulted smugglers suspected of jamming the truck with illegal immigrants.
"Mexican diplomats are very much on the front line," said Wayne Cornelius, the Gildred professor of political science and international relations at the University of California at San Diego. "Anything they do to defend their constituents can offend people who believe undocumented immigrants shouldn't be coddled."
In contrast, Ms. Lara's relations with the powers that be here are cordial, a measure, perhaps, of the increasing power that Hispanic voters enjoy. In November 2001, she accompanied Mayor Hahn and several City Council members to Mexico City to meet President Vicente Fox. In June, the 15-member Council unanimously approved an ordinance recognizing Mexico's consular ID for use in transactions with city agencies, including the Police Department.
"This was good for economic development, human dignity and public safety," said Eric M. Garcetti, the council member who proposed the bill. "If you have thousands of people out there with no ID, they are not trackable. So it improves security to bring them out of the shadows."
Processing applications for some 500 cards each day is a small part of the consulate's work. On Thursday, one of Ms. Lara's aides was at the county jail, visiting some of the estimated 4,500 Mexican inmates there. Another diplomat worked the telephones, seeking to persuade American officials to permit the mother of an 11-month-old with leukemia at a hospital in Los Angeles to cross from her home in Mexicali, Mexico, to visit the infant.
On the top floor of the consulate, Ms. Lara met Health Department officials to discuss a new clinic at the consulate that will offer free tests for diabetes and other diseases. Minutes later, she sat down with 12 aging men in cowboy hats who said they had been cheated of Social Security payments after working as braceros, or field hands, in the United States during and after World War II.
Later she traveled to a hospital to process an official document for a Mexican man with meningitis. Back at her office, Ms. Lara worked out details with Los Angeles school officials to be a co-sponsor of classes in Mexican art at the consulate. She denied being tired.
"Representing Mexico in Los Angeles," she said, "fills me with adrenaline."
Hmmmmm, this is a good question. Anyone know the answer?
Why have our elected officials turned their backs on the Constitution and people they have sworn to represent on such a large scale? We have beeen betrayed at the highest level.
Anyone wanting ON or OFF this border ping list, please click "private reply" to instantly freepmail me.
We certainly are allowing foreign leaders a lot of power over the US, I wonder why? It certainly isn't very smart.
The sheriff said Mexican Consulate authorities called Friday morning to contact Camacho, who is from Matamoros. But she refused to speak with them. Meanwhile, court-appointed attorney Bruce Tharpe met Friday morning with Camacho and Rubio.
Obviously. And what did this lying hypocrit weasel ever do for the hundreds of girls and women murdered in the Chihuahua town of Juarez? How many bodies were found last week? She's a typical Mexican politician who doesn't care about her citizens, she is part of another agenda.
Neither does America, apparently.
If you ask me she is already full of something else.
Chinese Embassy in Belgrade Exudes the Power and Energy.
Recent immigrants -
the next step from being ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
Boy, do I miss the days when you could call a wet back a wet back.
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