BUENA PARK, Calif. – A proposed state initiative that would bar illegal immigrants in California from using matricular consular cards at public agencies for identification purposes could be placed before voters on the November ballot. A signature drive for the “Save our State” (SOS) initiative is facing an April 15 deadline to collect 598,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Supporters said that more than 400,000 signatures have already been collected. The matricular consular cards – plastic identification cards issued to Mexican citizens residing in the U.S. – are accepted by credit unions in several states as well as major banks as a valid form of identification to open an account. The initiative would bar public agencies in California from accepting those cards, which are issued by Mexican consulates. It would also ban use of identification cards issued by other foreign governments. The initiative would not prevent the use of the matricular consular cards by financial institutions, according to a supporter for SOS. However, he said he hoped that credit unions and banks would refuse to accept them. “Hopefully, due to the public pressure of the percentage of people whao do not favor using these things, the banks and credit unions would basically bow out of using these things,” said the backer, who would only identify himself as `Bill’. Bob Arnould, vice president of state governmental affairs for the California Credit Union League, said he had not yet seen a copy of the initiative, but that the league and the credit union industry would likely oppose any attempt to prevent the use of the ID cards at financial institutions. “Credit unions have been pro-active in promoting the use of the matricular card,” he said. “We want to move forward on serving more of the unbanked, not go backwards. I don’t think credit unions want to turn back the clock.” Blocking use of the cards is just one part of the initiative, which overall seeks to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining public benefits. Chief among them would be the issuance of driver’s licenses, a hot button issue that was passed by the California Legislature last year and then repealed after widespread protests. The initiative, if passed, would also deny illegal aliens welfare benefits, housing assistance, in-state tuition for secondary education and non-emergency medical care. The measure would not deny illegal immigrants public schooling (K-12) or emergency medical care, something that Proposition 187, passed by 60% of voters statewide in November 1994, would have required. Five years after passage of Prop 187, and after parts of the measure were declared unconstitutional, then-Gov. Gray Davis announced a “settlement” that essentially voided the initiative. The SOS initiative has been called by some the “Son of 187.” “Our new proposed law will prevent illegal aliens from getting California driver’s licenses and will prohibit the use of matricular consular cards, and other foreign issued documents intended solely for use by illegal aliens, and not even accepted in their own countries,” said the SOS Web site at www.save187.com. “One of the reasons why illegal aliens want legitimate documents is to show residency, which will, in turn, make it easier for them to obtain public benefits,” it said. Ron Prince, author of the measure, cited public opinion polls that he said showed 70% of Californians supported measures to limit illegal immigration. He said his measure would bring California immigration policies into line with federal law. “You either stop illegal immigration or you don’t,” Prince said on a recent radio talk show. “If you don’t stop it, you encourage more. In fact what we’re doing in California is subsidizing illegal immigration.” Prince could not be reached for additional comment. CUNA and the World Council of Credit Unions have supported the use of matricular consular cards as a proper form of identification, saying they give financial institutions some protection against fraud as well as serving “a broader purpose of integrating immigrants into the mainstream of American life.” Legislation introduced in Congress both supports and opposes the use of the matricular consular cards. One of those opposing use of the cards is U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) His bill would prohibit the use of ID cards issued by foreign governments for purposes of verifying the identity of a person who opens an account at a financial institution. “Aside from aiding and abetting illegal immigration, acceptance of the consular ID cards is placing American security matters in the hands of foreign governments,” Garrett said. “Easy access to banking and financial institutions was one of the critical weaknesses in our system exploited by terrorists on Sept. 11. This practice must be stopped – this legislation works to do just that.” Other legislation would prevent the federal government from accepting the cards, or any other form of identification, other than passports, as a form of identification or to obtain federal public benefits. Former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar has said the matricular consular cards are a legitimate form of identification for people wanting to join a credit union. “The Mexican matricular consular cards are working effectively as a form of identification from our experience,” Dollar said. “For a non-citizen without a taxpayer identification number, current regulations permit financial institutions to accept other government-issued documents evidencing nationality of residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.” According to Save our State petitions, the cost to the already cash-strapped state and local governments to implement the measure would be in the tens of millions of dollars. It noted, however, that state and local governments could save more than $100 million annually due to reduced expenditures for certain public services. -

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