What to Make of Laffey and Guatemala/Mexico
I will be the first to admit that I haven’t been as convinced as other conservatives, here and there, that Cranston Mayor Steven Laffey’s politics or personality will translate well on the statewide stage. This is not because of his political views, many (if not most) of which I agree with, but rather my perception of the degree (or lack thereof) that the typical Rhode Island voter can accept such a rabble-rousin’ conservative (I mean that in a good way). Thus, with all of that as a caveat, I must admit that I am quite perplexed as to what exactly the mayor is doing by inserting Cranston into the middle international immigration policy. On the one hand, it could be an attempt to add a “kinder, gentler” side to his conservativism in an attempt to preempt [predictable] charges of being cold-hearted, etc. On the other hand, it could be raw political opportunism at the expense of intellectual, or at least ideological, honesty. The following blurb from the “aforelinked” story sums up my concerns [and it starts with a laugh-out-loud, tongue-in-cheek sentence, at least I thought]
Of all Cranston’s mayors over the past 100 years, Laffey has, without question, the best relations with the nation of Guatemala. In the past few years, Laffey has given seven Cranston vehicles to Guatemala in the last two years for use as ambulances. Last year he visited Guatemala, and he has played host to the president of the City Council of Guatemala City and the mayor of the town of Chici.
Earlier this year, he also went on a fact-finding expedition to Mexico’s border with Arizona, and spent a Saturday riding along with the border patrol.
Cranston joins Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Providence as Rhode Island communities accepting Mexico’s Matricula Consular identification card. Providence also accepts Guatemala’s ID card.
The card itself is not proof of legal immigration status or eligibility to work in the United States. But it is accepted often by American banks from foreigners opening bank accounts.
Julio Aragon, president of the Mexican American Association of Rhode Island, said that the cards offer little benefits for foreigners when dealing with city government. But he said they are invaluable when Mexicans come into contact with the police department. If they commit a crime and have no valid identification, they may be deported rather than enter into the court system.
“If the police stop me with no license, nothing, the police can kick me out of America. But if you have the Mexican card, if the officer stops you, he knows right away you’re registered with the Mexican embassy,” Aragon said.
“It’s better than being deported,” Aragon said, adding that it is much easier to carry around the small ID card than the bulkier Mexican passport.
Mexico has been distributing the card since 1871. Guatemala issued its first cards in 2002.
Critics argue that the cards legitimize the presence of illegal immigrants, and provide an avenue for terrorists to transfer money and to enter the United States.
In 2003, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and at the Homeland Security Department have testified before Congress that the cards, if fraudently obtained, can be used to gain access to other documentation — such as U.S. drivers’ licenses. There have been several failed attempts in Congress to enact a nationwide ban on the cards.
More than 1.7 million Mexicans carry the Matricula Consular.
To receive a card, applicants must present either a passport, or a combination of an original birth certificate to prove their nationality, a government-issued photo ID to prove identity, proof of address under the same name, a telephone number, and next of kin information.
Laffey said that the cards offer all immigrants “the fair chance to live the American dream.” He closed his remarks with his favorite Spanish phrase, directed to Vice President Stein: “Su lucha es mi lucha” — your struggle is my struggle.
I’m just not sure what is to be gained. What if Cranston becomes an illegal immigrant haven? Will Cranston’s taxpayers be willing, or ready, to foot the social welfare bills of a large non- or illegally- working sub-population? I doubt it. It would seem Mayor Laffey’s usually good political ear has turned to tin. Average folks don’t like the idea of illegal immigrants crossing the border, taking jobs and leeching off of our welfare system. And God forbid if the police actually wanted to deport an illegal alien criminal.