The Mexican government is opening a satellite consular office on Catalina Island -- a small resort off the California coast with a history of drug smuggling and human trafficking -- to provide the island's illegal Mexican immigrants with identification cards, The Washington Examiner has learned.
The Mexican consular office in Los Angeles issued a flier, a copy of which was obtained by The Examiner, listing the Catalina Island Country Club as the location of its satellite office. It invites Mexicans to visit the office to obtain the identification, called matricular cards, by appointment.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican whose district includes Catalina Island, said handing out matricular cards will exacerbate an already dangerous situation.
"Handing out matricular cards to Mexicans who are not in this country legally is wrong no matter where it's done," he said. "But on Catalina it will do more damage. It's a small island but there's evidence it's being used as a portal for illegals to access mainland California."
Rohrabacher added, "If there were a large number of Americans illegally in Mexico and the U.S. consulate was making it easier for them to stay, Mexico would never permit it."
Mexican officials with the consular office in Los Angeles could not be reached immediately for comment. The matricular consular identification card, is issued by the Mexican government to Mexican nationals residing outside the country, regardless of immigration status. The purpose is to provide identification for opening bank accounts and obtaining other services. But the cards are usually used to skirt U.S. immigration laws, since Mexicans in the country legally have documents proving that status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
In 2004 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI officials called the card an unreliable form of identification. The agency said that Mexico lacks a centralized database for them, which could lead to forgery, duplication, and other forms of abuse.
Officers with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said their agency was asked by Mexican officials not to enforce U.S. immigration laws on the island while the cards were being issued.
"It amazes me every time that the Mexican government has the gall to tell us what to do," said an ICE official, who asked not to be named. "More surprisingly is how many times we stand by and let them. This is just an example of one of hundreds of requests we've had to deal with."
In April, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies seized a boat carrying large quantities of marijuana and detained three Mexican nationals who said they were being smuggled into the United States.
The island has a sizable Mexican migrant population. Most are undocumented low-income workers.
Mexican government officials have moved their satellite consular office from the Catalina Island Country Club to a Catholic Church – citing protection under the Geneva Convention.
Read Sara's update here