WASHINGTON — An Idaho congressman has asked the State Department to delay the opening of a new consulate in Boise until the U.S. government had adressed "the moral and constitutional duty to take into consideration how foreign consulates affect our fellow citizens here in our own country.”
The likely impact of the request from Rep. Bill Sali, R-Idaho, is unclear. The State Department has already approved Mexico's request to open the consulate, though the Mexican government hasn't decided where the consulate will be or who will staff it. When opened, it would be Mexico's 49th consulate in the United States.
But Sali's request underscores the suspicion with which some people in parts of the United States view what is a booming Mexican population in places far removed from the country's southern border.
In a statement, Sali said he was especially concerned about the "consular cards" issued by the Mexican government at consulates across the U.S. Undocumented workers often use such cards as identification when they rent apartments or open bank accounts.
The U.S. government typically has welcomed Mexican consulates with open arms. Last week, President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón reopened the New Orleans consulate, which had been in operation from 1822 to 2002, when the Mexican government closed it for financial reasons.
Mexico decided to reopen the consulate in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of immigrant workers — both documented and undocumented — moved to New Orleans for cleanup and construction jobs.
The growing population of Mexican workers in Idaho and Alaska also was behind the Mexican government's decision to open consulates in Boise and Anchorage. A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy here, Ricardo Alday, said his government also hasn't selected a site in Anchorage.