Mesa and Tempe city councils will vote today on whether to recognize a photo ID card issued to Mexican nationals — even though the state Legislature is looking at a bill that would ban the cards.
Matricula Consular cards are issued by the Mexican consul’s office to Mexican citizens who live abroad, often to those who hold green cards to work in the United States.
The Mexican government increased security on the cards after Sept. 11, 2001, and recently many banks, law enforcement agencies and city governments, including Phoenix and Tucson, are accepting the cards as a form of photo ID.
"All it does is to show that they are who they say they are and live where they say they live," said Tempe Councilman Ben Arredondo.
Scottsdale and Chandler officials also are looking into accepting the cards.
The IDs could allow Mesa and Tempe residents access to library cards, park facilities, permits and vendor licenses. The city police departments also would recognize the cards, though they would not substitute as driver’s licenses or proof of immigration status.
In these days of heightened security, the cards have become invaluable for Mexican nationals who may not have other forms of photo ID to prove they have an address in the United States, said Tyler T. Moran, policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center, which supports the cards.
"All of the sudden, it’s growing as a form of identification," she said.
But opponents worry that the cards may not be reliable and that they lend credibility to illegal immigrants who might obtain them.
A bill mandating that government agencies in Arizona accept only ID cards issued by the U.S. government or by states has cleared the Arizona House, and is awaiting deliberation in the state Senate.
"By accepting these cards, we are doing nothing to discourage illegal immigration," said Rep. Randy Graf, RGreen Valley, who sponsored the bill. "Why would we encourage the provision of these services to people who are in the country illegally? It’s sort of a back-door approach by Mexican officials in our country to circumvent our immigration laws."
Tempe council members said they believe they have the support to pass the resolution at their meeting tonight.
But at least one Mesa councilwoman, Janie Thom, said she will oppose the cards when the Mesa council examines the issue this morning.
"No sir, I’m sorry," Thom said.
"I don’t think we should be accepting Mexican ID cards. We don’t have any control over their issuance."
But many of the cardholders are here legally and deserve access to basic city services, proponents argue.
"Sometimes the issue is overshadowed by the philosophical question whether it is conferring legal status on individuals," Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh said. "It doesn’t."
Tempe Councilman Dennis Cahill said he’s irked by the Legislature’s bill that would ban the cards, saying it is "grounded in xenophobia."