The Stealth Amnesty

Let's suppose for a moment that an elected member of the House of Representatives one day links his Web page to that of an ethnic advocacy group, a white ethnic advocacy group.

Let's also suppose that group's founder has made statements to the effect that his group's goals include such things as taking over all of a state's political institutions, or making a state into a "white state." It would probably be the end of that representative's career, right?

Last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois' Fourth Congressional District linked his Web page to a "white paper" on the matricula consular, the identification card issued by Mexican consulates to its nationals abroad. Mexico has energetically lobbied U.S. institutions for the card's acceptance.

The white paper was prepared by, and appears on the Web site of, an organization called MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund). MALDEF's founder, Mario Obledo, has said publicly that "California is going to be a Mexican state, we are going to control all the political institutions. If people don't like it, they should leave."

There was a time in this country, now thankfully past, when talk like that would land you in jail. But the fact that Obledo has the right to say such things doesn't make them right. He is, after all, telling us that his organization's aim is to assume control of California's political institutions and then transfer that control to another country.

The media has said almost nothing about Gutierrez's decision to link his Web page to MALDEF's and display its white paper. MALDEF, and its sister organization La Raza (yes, that translates to "The Race") are just some of the advocacy groups that work nonstop to see the matricula consular card accepted as a valid form of identification by all U.S. institutions, including banks, marriage license bureaus, departments of motor vehicles, and even federal agencies. It serves one purpose: the normalization of the approximately three million Mexican nationals now illegally in the United States.

No person in the United States legally has any need for the card, because legal residency (or even a short-term visa) is accompanied by legal ID. The only people now in the country who have any need for the matricula consular are those that are here illegally. Their ability to use the matricula consular as a means of completing the tasks of everyday life — banking, driving, leasing an apartment — goes a long way to achieving what an immigration amnesty would. It's an amnesty that doesn't require the president's signature — a stealth amnesty.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was one of the first to get behind the matricula consular, when, in January of this year, she was able to persuade the Phillip Burton Federal Building to accept the card as a valid form of identification. Pelosi was able to do this despite the fact that federal buildings nationwide have been under significantly tighter security since Sept. 11, 2001, and even though the issuance of a matricula consular card rests on the flimsiest of foundations.

As a rule, all a person must do is present a paper copy of a Mexican birth certificate and a photo ID, and the consulate will issue the card. It's striking that a person seeking entry to a federal building with a current driver's license is sometimes turned away, while at the federal building in Pelosi's district, a matricula consular is definitionally valid ID.

At a time when our country is learning from its mistakes, like its easy issuance of student visas and rampant fraud at its motor vehicle bureaus, and trying to create a more secure environment, we can know that some are diligently campaigning to provide a degree of legal protection to people whose presence here is a crime. One would think that presentation of a matricula consular card to even a clerk at a marriage license bureau would result in a telephone call to immigration authorities. But our environment, at least for some foreign nationals, remains permissive.

When Amr Mussa, in responding to the Bush administration's mandatory registration of people arriving from Islamic countries (to include fingerprinting and a photograph), says, "These are discriminatory measures against citizens of Arab and Islamic countries," he may have a point.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters.  He teaches at Berkeley College, and is author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, a textbook to be published by West Legal Publications in October, 2003.

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