With the second anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th just passed, and the PATRIOT Act seemingly touching lives in once unheard of ways, security remains a high priority in this country. There seems now to be universal agreement that it has never been more important to have reliable positive identification that an individual is who he or she claims to be. There is far less agreement over what constitutes an acceptable form of identification, especially for non-U.S. citizens. This is particularly an issue for certain individuals, lawmakers, cities, various government bodies, and credit unions located in states bordering Mexico. Here’s where something called a matricula consular card comes into the picture. Many if not most credit unions and CU leaders in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are willing to accept a matricula form of ID and have said so loudly. Many of their counterparts in other states are still not convinced and oppose them with as many decibels. What is a matricula consular card? Simply put, it is a form of individual identification issued by the Mexican consulate. Supporters say it should be accepted because it is issued by a formal government body. In this case that means the Mexican government. They add that it fulfills the PATRIOT Act requirement spelled out in Section 326 that financial institutions be allowed the discretion, with due consideration of appropriate risk factors, to accept identification documents issued by foreign governments. The “risk factors” is the source of much of the debate. As everyone knows, financial institutions cannot provide service to any individual unless they can show proper identification such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, green card, etc. It is argued that the matricula consular card can and should be included in the definition of proper identification. But there is less than total agreement on that argument. On the other side of the debate, the concern is that these cards are too easy to obtain and do not meet basic security considerations. Stories are told that some individuals have turned up with multiple cards, each under a different name. Just because the Mexican government issues them does not make them foolproof, they say. Then there’s the controversy of issuing them to individuals who are here illegally. Adding to the controversy is the discussion over a proposal currently in California that illegal aliens would be issued driver’s licenses. Among other things that could give them two forms of identification, one issued by the Mexican government and one by the state of California. The U.S. is not nearly as hard on its own citizens when it comes to identification. A state-issued driver’s license (over 250 different formats) will get a person on an airplane going anywhere in the country. A certified birth certificate (issued by over 5,000 entities) will allow passage out of the country to Mexico and Canada. Are these government issued documents, which are used to get a passport, more reliable than a matricula card? Another argument advanced by the backers of widespread acceptance of the matricular cards is that we are really only talking about ordinary individuals. Many of them are seeking to be able to join a credit union and begin the long process of improving their station in life. Certainly, they say, these individuals pose no threat of money laundering or to our security. But, say those opposed, how do you know that? How hard would it be, once the cards are widely accepted, for our enemies to recruit Hispanics who could roam freely in this country with identification as a Mexican citizen when in fact they might be working for a terrorist organization? For what it’s worth, initially I was strongly against accepting matricular consular cards for ID purposes. I weighed the same pros and cons that are still being advanced. But mostly it seemed to me it would be too easy to falsify them. I was concerned about security issues. I wondered why they couldn’t just get a passport. To be fair, I read everything I could find on the subject to see if there were more good reasons for supporting this ID concept than opposing it. I have now joined the ranks of those who support it. Here’s why: some identification is better than no identification even if that identification can be under certain circumstances compromised. Millions of Hispanics roaming freely in this country with absolutely no identity makes no sense. I also am sympathetic to the fact that an unidentified person cannot join a credit union without some form of official identification. It also occurred to me that even with the stringent requirements of passports, the number of phony ones is more than anyone could imagine. Just look at how freely terrorists have crossed our borders with a pocketful of passports issued by official government agencies. Should we have any more faith in a passport issued by a rogue nation than a matricular consular card issued by our non-threatening neighbor to the south? Right in Madison, Wisconsin, a man and woman were recently arrested for doing a thriving business in producing counterfeit Social Security and resident alien cards and selling them to undocumented aliens. And then there is the out-of-control identity theft involving traditional ID documents. What really convinced me to change my mind has to do with long-held credit union principles. Millions of individuals who realistically pose no serious threat to this country need the help credit unions can provide. I realize my opinion is no more or no less important that that of every reader of Credit Union Times. Should credit unions accept them for identification? Should every credit union set its own policy rather than have the federal government do so as CUNA recommends? I’d really like to hear views from as many readers as possible on this important and controversial topic. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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