WatchSonoma Watch

An issue of identity


They are not get-out-of-jail cards, nor can they be used by illegal immigrants as driver’s licenses or as a means to obtain legal U.S. residency.

They are Mexican consular identification cards, and now a valid form of ID in the eyes of Sonoma County law enforcement officials. And for Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, that’s all they are.

“It’s not about immigration, it’s about identification,” said Schwedhelm, president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association.

“Our goal is to be reasonably certain that the person being issued a citation is the person named on the citation,” he said.

And if the person is accused of committing a crime that warrants arrest and booking in jail, that’s where he or she is headed, he said, whether or not they have a consular ID.

For some, the decision by the chiefs to accept Mexican consular IDs represents a violation of the rule of law and an official acceptance of the growing presence of illegal immigrants. But police said it is the most sensible way to play the hand dealt to them by ineffective federal lawmakers who have failed to address issues surrounding illegal immigration.

The chiefs association in October changed its countywide policy for dealing with undocumented immigrants, saying officers “should accept matricular identification (ID) cards issued by the Mexican Consulate as valid ID” unless there’s reason to believe they are fake or have been tampered with.

The decision could keep some illegal immigrants from going to jail for an offense that in most cases would result in a citation. Police in California can arrest drivers who cannot provide valid identification.

In jail, the immigrants likely would be flagged by immigration officials under a federal program known as Secure Communities.

The practice of booking immigrants who did not have valid IDs had become a conflict between police and the local immigrant community, often leading to accusations of racial profiling and quiet cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Police officials said previous consular IDs were not reliable enough to be considered a valid form of ID. But they said the new cards are reliable.

Petaluma Police Chief Dan Fish said the current consular card offers “our first chance at some identification method for some of these folks that would be reliable, above and beyond the previous methods that we’ve ever encountered.”

The Mexican consular ID, or matricula consular as it is known in Spanish, is essentially a form of registration for Mexican nationals living within the jurisdiction of a particular consulate office.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, attempts were made by Mexico to make the cards a more secure form of ID, said Adriana Gonzalez, consul for legal affairs at the San Francisco Consulate, which includes Sonoma County in its jurisdiction.

The most significant security measures have been implemented since 2005, she said. These include the use of a national database that can track consular IDs issued from consulate offices in other states. The cards also include 20 different “security features,” including holograms, similar to other forms of ID, such as passports.

Still some believe the consular IDs are still not reliable.

Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, maintains that a Mexican consular card is not a valid form of ID. Feere, a former Petaluma resident, cited 2003 testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims by Steven McCraw, a former assistant director of the FBI’s office of intelligence.

At the time, McCraw raised a number of problems that he said made consular IDs unreliable. He said Mexico “issues the card to anyone who can produce a Mexican birth certificate and one other form of identity, including documents of very low reliability.”

“I think the FBI’s testimony is still quite accurate,” Feere said in an email. “The card and the administration of it hasn’t changed much, despite Mexico’s claims.”

Gonzalez said applicants must apply for and receive consular IDs in person. She said the process is similar to that of obtaining a Mexican passport.

Weaver, the Sebastopol police chief, said most people in his city have reacted positively to the policy change. He said he’s received only two phone calls from opponents.

He said the callers mistakenly thought police were allowing undocumented immigrants to drive without a California driver’s license. He said they also “felt that this was undermining efforts to remove people who are here illegally.”

Weaver conceded the new policy could result in fewer deportations.

“My job is not to enforce immigration law,” Weaver said. “We’re not trained in that, that’s not our duty and our responsibility. Our duty is to enforce state law.”

Law enforcement officials said nothing in the amended policy prevents them from cooperating with federal ICE agents in pursuing undocumented immigrants suspected of serious crimes. In fact, the protocol establishes procedures for such cooperation.

Efren Carrillo, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, called the change “the right thing to do.”

“I hope that the other chiefs in the county will follow suit,” he said. “This is really about being able to identify some people who live in our county; they work in our community, they live in our neighborhoods.”

After being asked by members of the immigrant community and their supporters to have another look at the cards, the chiefs association put together a delegation that went to the San Francisco Mexican Consulate in August to examine the cards and the application process.

The delegation included Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas, Petaluma Police Lt. Dave Sears, Sebastopol Police Lt. James Conner and Santa Rosa Police Capt. Hank Schreeder.

“We’re confident that these cards aren’t just given to anyone,” Schwedhelm said.

Fish, the Petaluma chief, said, “That’s not to say that they can’t be altered or forged, but so can a California driver’s license.”

Weaver said the chiefs association’s executive committee considered the change over the summer, and it was approved by association members in early October.

Police departments will set their own schedule for implementing the new rule, as resources allow. Smaller departments have fewer officers to train, Weaver said.

Thus far, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa police and the Sheriff’s Office have completed training. Other departments are following suit.

“We have some of our folks that have been trained,” Fish said. “Everybody knows that we’re accepting it.”

17 Responses to “An issue of identity”

  1. Dogs Rule says:

    We may as well accept a Blockbuster card at this point.

  2. Joseph says:

    You know the irony for me is I was arrested fro trespass a few years back while photographing the coast. The officer took my ID, CA drivers license, Birth certificate, Pink slip to my vehicle and even the business card of the late John Duffy with the direct phone number to his office written on the back for case of emergency.
    If they are so busy taking ID’s from US citizens, why are they accepting a foreign document that can so easily be counterfitted?

  3. K.I.S.S says:

    @Skippy & @Concerned

    Posts such as yours play right into the hands of those who say people against illegal immigration are racist.

    “Mexifornia is becoming a hostile, foreign country.”

    “The real cost of this illegal immigration is a changing culture…”

    Even I read this as “Damn Mexicans!”

    *California population: 37M
    *California’s illegal population: 2.6M (LA Times)

    If my math is correct, that’s 7% of the population. (Right?)

    *US population: 307M
    *US illegal population: 11M
    Percentage: 3.5

    Children living in the US (not just CA) born to illegal immigrants: 4M
    Percentage of all children under age 18 in the US: 5.4

    Illegal immigration isn’t turning this into “Mexifornia.” I think that’s mostly *legal* immigration. Which we all profess to *love* right?

  4. K.I.S.S says:

    @Average Joe

    Where did I suggest that “we should accept this as the norm or as OK?”

    My point is that people’s complaints/solutions focus on the wrong things, and my **PROOF** for this is that we *still* have an illegal immigration problem in our country, even after Mr. Reagan offered amnesty and supposedly solved the issue. Shocking, isn’t it?

    In fact, the US’s conscious decision to focus blame solely on illegals completely and *conveniently* ignores the role that business plays in this. Instead of billing Mexico, as someone suggested, we should bill businesses. Get caught employing illegals? $10,000 fine per person, no ifs ands or buts, and you get to also pay back the city, county, state for the drain.

    Here’s a NEWSFLASH for ya people: go after employers, dry up the pipeline, and *poof* our illegal problem disappears. And no stupid walls that do nothing except probably employ illegals, no stupid props voted into law that are struck down by the courts, costing us taxpayers even more $$.

    But no. We cut off our noses to spite our faces, and here we are: noseless and with an illegal problem. Brilliant, I tell ya, brilliant. Go team!

    Now, the main drawback with going after employers is that it’s going to hurt society in the long run. You’ve all read the stats, for instance, that at least 80% of ag workers are illegal. Getting rid of them and fining their employers is going to mean we have to have the fortitude to face those repercussions. Do we? I dunno.

  5. truth in news says:

    Let us demand our government enforce the federal laws regarding immigration. The local government officials who supported this act should be held accountable. Write them. Let them know how things are going to effect them in the next vote…or a recall vote. We do npt have the money to feed every third world nation, let alone their people who come here illegally. We should bill their home contry for every service, whether it be incarceration or any other socil service.

  6. Social Dis-Ease says:

    If it pertains to the decline of our standard of living…
    it’s Agenda 21.
    Such is our immigration policy.

  7. Jon Bixler says:

    K.I.S.S. is dead nuts on accurate in his/her summation.

    These cards solve the local problem of having to book into county jail every single person who is accused of a public offense simply because they don’t have valid ID. This is a waste of the officer’s time and taxpayer dollars.

    Nice to see some common sense on this forum. It is sadly lacking.

  8. David J. Spencer says:

    Scuttlebutt has it that the three Sonoma County Chiefs are the Only Law Enforcement chiefs in the Whole state that is adopting this policy.

    Can the P.D. confirm or deny?

    Also, what is the stance of the California Highway Patrol on this issue? Given the importance of its presence in Sonoma County its views, pro and con, should be an important factor in the public discourse on this matter of concern.

  9. Skippy says:

    These simulated ID cards are a joke.
    We are being invaded by millions of illegal aliens, but it’s OK as long as the corrupt oligarchy that forced them over the border issues them a gum wrapper…er…matricular counterfeit cardo de felonious.
    Demand valid US ID for all purposes, especially voting.
    How many of these 21st century Visigoths will it take to burn the US to the ground?
    Mexifornia is becoming a hostile, foreign country.
    But hey, we’re sensitive and compassionate, eh?

  10. Average Joe says:

    @ K.I.S.S.

    Nice try but no cigar.

    Just because things are completely out of hand does not mean we should be accept them as the norm or as OK.

    This is pandering PURE and SIMPLE.

  11. K.I.S.S. says:

    Like the cards or not, let’s at least get some facts straight. Points in no particular order

    1. Illegals and driving. License them and make them get insurance. Less of a driving hazard for the rest of us. That would be a reward, would it? Let’s stick to our guns and keep the roads unsafe. That makes *so* much sense.

    2. Illegals don’t send all their money “home to Mexico.” Think about it, they have rent, car payments, gas, food, etc.

    3. Yes, illegals do pay taxes. Uncle Sam, in all his wisdom and hypocrisy, has a system set up for this. No SS number? Just get a temp federal ID number for taxes. Why do you think there are so many private tax preparers who advertise in español? Call and ask the percentage of their business that needs to get a federal ID number.

    4. Complaints about jobs being taken by illegals. Hmmm, I see no, repeat no, anger directed at employers. I guess they have absolutely no roll to play in any of this? How many employers were fined last year? I’ll bet the number is close to 0. As long as business don’t have to answer for this, they will continue to use illegal labor. Somebody go ask the fair board if they’re sure the labor used this year was legal. Oh, that’s the job of the subcontractor. I’m sure the guy who runs the Mexican rodeo and dances used legit workers. Riiiiiight. And the fair board just turned their heads and played dumb.

    5. As for not needing their labor, how about you go ask some Alabama and Georgia farmers.

    6. Pandering to the immigrant community. Really? REALLY? More like pandering to their employers. After all, who benefits? Who votes?

    Your simplistic answers to a complicated problem don’t help in any way shape or form.

    Yeah, let’s just Keep It Simple and Stupid.

  12. GAJ says:

    If this ID is not acceptable to board an airplane why is it being accepted locally?


  13. Average Joe says:

    This is just political pandering to the “immigrant community” which is code for the illegals as a whole.

    This is not about real illegal aliens but rather Mexican aliens. If the Taliban were sneaking in and working we would CERTAINLY not be accepting their local identification cards.

    So let’s be adults and call it what like it is:

    1. Mexicans who are here legally DESPISE this policy.
    2. Illegal Mexicans are a driving hazard and carry no insurance. This cost honest citizens EVERY time they have an accident.
    3. Illegal Mexicans send ALL the money they earn illegally to Mexico, it has no secondary effect to our economy, NONE.
    4. Illegal Mexicans have taken the jobs once held by Americans and teenagers. Try ordering a Cheeseburger “plain” at any fast food place except In and Out. It will come without the cheese, guaranteed.
    5. We have pandered to these Illegal Mexicans to the point the are embolden now. They actually think they have the RIGHT to be here. Seriously? tell that to the parents/spouse of a killed US soldier.
    6. We are scared poopless to even speak the truth, the local activists who support these Illegal Mexican have scared the poop out everyone.
    7. The sheriff, and the local cops DO NOT DESERVE your support, they have rolled over, played scared, and are ENDANGERING the public.

  14. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Those familiar with the Smart(?) train
    ‘plan’ can’t help but notice the conspicuous absense of a traditional
    ‘ticketing’ provision.
    THAT’S because part of the Smart Growth model provides for our being chipped, you know, like they do to dogs ‘n cats at the pound.
    EVERYTHING would be reconciled/deducted through automated means based on information on your ‘chip’.
    This is incremental indoctrination towards same.
    Green is the guise, ’till you open your eyes.
    Control is how they really roll.
    Agenda 21.

  15. Concerned says:

    The Mexican ID card is another magnet along with lax immigration enforcement, free health care, social services and low wage menial jobs that attract more and more illegals to Sonoma County.

    The real cost of this illegal immigration is a changing culture, fewer jobs for legal residents in restaurants, construction, gardening and many other occupations. Illegals are increasing taxes because of their increased demand on social services.

    Illegals do not pay income tax. They do not comply with the driving laws of California because they do not have legal driver’s licenses or car insurance.

    What good is a Mexican consulate ID? How does it make an illegal, legal?

    Arrest and deport all Mexicans found here without legal status to be here. Enforce the laws and secure the border. How many more gardeners do we need? We need engineers and professional and technical foreign employees, not the surplus uneducated Mexican population coming here looking for menial work.

  16. sheryl says:

    No, it’s an issue of law. Either they are here legally or they aren’t. Stop trying to legitimize breaking the law.

  17. Graeme Wellington says:

    How can you be “confident that these cards are not just given to anyone” when the consulate does not require any supporting documentation to issue them and does not keep track of the cards it does issue and there is no database the police can check to verify the validity of the cards? Counterfeiting is not the issue Chief.