House Approves Regulation of Mexican IDs

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Democrats and Hispanic lawmakers on Wednesday criticized House approval of a measure that authorizes regulation of an identification card used by Mexican citizens for opening bank accounts and other purposes in the United States.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. called the Republican-sponsored measure anti-Hispanic.

The provision, an amendment to a bill authorizing State Department and foreign aid programs, passed the House Tuesday evening, 226-198. The larger bill passed 382-42 Wednesday.

One of the measure's sponsors, Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., cited recent testimony by the FBI in a House hearing that the cards are vulnerable to fraud.

The cards, known as "matricula consular (search)," are issued by the Mexican government to its citizens living in the United States. It allows cardholders to get driver's licenses in some states, open bank accounts and send money home. Police have found them useful when arresting some illegal immigrants.

But concerns have arisen over whether the cards provide legitimacy to illegal immigrants.

Steven McCraw, with the FBI Office of Intelligence (search), testified at a House hearing in late June that the card is not a reliable form of identification because there is no way to verify the card holder's identity. Multiple cards can be issued under the same name, address and photograph because the Mexican government does not have a centralized cardholder database and does not have the technology to verify identities of card applicants, McCraw said.

The White House is leading a review of the consular cards. A White House spokesman was not available for comment.

Hostettler said in a statement that the provision, co-sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., does not address acceptance of the card or prohibit their issuance, but extends authority to the State Department to regulate them.

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (search) chairman, said the measure is one of an onslaught of "continuous anti-Hispanic amendments the Republicans insist on submitting."

"One thing that needs to be clarified in their muddy argument is the fact that immigrants cannot use matriculas to obtain work authorizations, the right to vote, to obtain public benefits, nor do they provide an immediate legalization status," said Rodriguez, D-Texas.

Hostettler's measure includes allowing the State Department to require that countries issuing the cards provide them only to citizens of their country and to verify identities. It also allows the State Department to require countries have accurate records of cards issued and to have anti-fraud systems.

It provides penalties for countries whose violations create a national security risk or facilitates fraud. The measure requires the State Department to stop issuing visas to citizens of countries committing violations.