Police in Arizona starting to do their job.

Police in Ariz. may stop accepting Mexican ID card

A recent legal review revealed a Mexican identification card issued to more than 231,000 people in the Valley fails to meet Arizona traffic law, leaving some illegal alien motorists subject to arrest during routine stops.

While the Mexican government billed the matricula consular card as a secure document for U.S. transplants, police agencies said the card is invalid – the difference between a civil citation and a criminal charge in some cases.

Phoenix city attorneys reviewed the details of the matricula card after Mexican diplomats pushed for a police department policy that would require officers to accept the ID, which appears like a driver’s license.

Attorneys said officers are unable to read biometric information – such as height, weight and eye color – encoded on the back of the card. According to Arizona state law, a driver who fails to provide evidence of their identity could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Tucson police Sgt. Fabian Pacheco said officers have the discretion to make an arrest if they feel they cannot identify a subject based on the matricula card alone.

“It serves very little purpose,” Pacheco said. “I can see the Mexican government’s and Mexican Consulate’s attempt to provide something for their citizens… but you have to be careful not to interpret it as a legal document.”

Carlos Flores Vizcarra, the consul general of Mexico in Phoenix, said officers in the past routinely ticketed and released drivers stopped for minor traffic violations who showed a matricula card in lieu of a driver’s license.

But as public pressure to crack down on illegal aliens has intensified, officers have become less inclined to accept the card, Flores Vizcarra said. As a result, more Mexican drivers stopped for minor traffic infractions are being arrested, booked into Maricopa County jails and deported, he said.

In 2003, an FBI official told a congressional panel that the matricula card is primarily used by illegal aliens. The FBI also concluded applicants could forge birth certificates and other documents to obtain one.

Phoenix police Cmdr. Glen Gardner said even though the Mexican government updated the matricula card in September, patrol officers were never provided with devices to scan or read the encoded material on the back – something that would require U.S. law enforcement agencies access to the Mexican government databases, he said.

“I would venture that they’re frustrated that the card isn’t being accepted in Arizona the way they would like,” said Gardner, who helped design Operations Order 1.4 aliens enforcement policy one year ago, which gave Phoenix officers discretion to contact federal authorities when they encounter people they suspect are in the country illegally.

Gardner said Phoenix officials agreed to accept the matricula card as a form of ID after it was introduced in 2002, though officers have always had the discretion to judge a person’s identification.

The argument frustrated some advocates, who feared that officers could unfairly target undocumented aliens even though they provide a form of government-approved ID.


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