Segment 2 Of 2 Previous Hearing Segment(1)
SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE ISSUANCE AND ACCEPTANCE IN
THE UNITED STATES
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2003
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Immigration,
Border Security, and Claims,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 11:11 a.m. in Room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John N. Hostettler (Chair of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The Subcommittee will come to order.
Today, the Subcommittee is holding its second hearing on consular identification cards, cards issued by foreign agents in the United States. In order to devote as much time as possible to this important topic, we have postponed Subcommittee action on four private bills until the week of July 14.
A few points became clear from the testimony at that hearing that was previously held last Thursday. The first point is that issuance of consular cards in the United States is not a new phenomenon. In fact, consular cards have been issued for approximately 130 years. Those cards have traditionally been issued by consular officials to nationals abroad to allow those nationals to seek their home country's assistance when they need helpfor example, when they are injured or arrested.
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Historically, therefore, the intended recipient of a consular card issued by a foreign government in the United States is the foreign government itself, not our Government and certainly not a locality in the United States. The second point is that while the issuance of consular cards is a fairly old process, attempts by foreign government agents to lobby States and localities to accept the cards are not. None of the witnesses at last week's hearing and no information that has come to the Subcommittee suggests that any foreign country issuing consular cards ever attempted to convince States or localities to accept those cards for domestic identification purposes before 2001.
Therefore, in the 130-year history of foreign government issuance of consular cards, foreign governments have only lobbied localities to accept those cards for the past 2 years. A third point about which there is little disagreement is that foreign governments are allowed to issue consular identification cards in the United States. Even those critics who believe that consular identification cards are insecure and unreliable believe that foreign countries have the right to issue them to their nationals. Critics do oppose, however, efforts by foreign government agents to lobby State and local officials in the United States to accept the cards. It is only in the context of such foreign government lobbying and domestic acceptance of consular cards that the security, reliability and verifiability is a concern for our country.
A fourth point is that consular cards do not convey any immigration status. None of the foreign governments that issue consular cards that the Subcommittee has examined appear to have any interest whatsoever in whether an applicant for the card is in our country lawfully; rather, it appears that those countries acknowledge the fact that most of the aliens applying for those cards in our country are here illegally and need the card because they have no form of lawful identification. In fact, some have argued that if an alien's only identification is a consular card, the alien is most likely illegally in the United States and should be arrested by the immigration authorities and removed.
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A fifth point is that no domestic government entity in the United States at the present time regulates the issuance of consular cards or the lobbying efforts of foreign governments to convince States and localities to accept those cards. On a similar point, it is apparent that no domestic government entity in the United States has access to the databases of cards that have been issued by foreign government agents in the United States, even where those agents have lobbied States and localities to accept the cards.
It is against this backdrop that the Subcommittee calls this hearing today. It has been approximately a year and a half since foreign agents began a widespread effort in the United States to lobby States and localities to accept consular cards for domestic identification purposes. The Subcommittee is interested in determining what steps the Federal Government has taken in response to those efforts. The Subcommittee is also interested in determining what the Federal Government has done to investigate complaints that foreign governments have been lobbying States and localities to accept cards that are not secure and that are not reliable and that are susceptible to fraud.
Finally, the Subcommittee is interested in determining what the Federal Government's policy is with respect to domestic acceptance in the United States of consular cards. It is clear that the United States Government must play some role in this process, be it regulating domestic acceptance of consular cards or, at a minimum, providing guidance to States and localities that have been lobbied by foreign government agents to accept those cards.
For more than 6 months, the Subcommittee has been closely following the efforts of various Federal Government agenciesdepartments, excuse me, and agenciesto establish a uniform policy on and consider a response to the local acceptance of consular identification cards. We are still waiting for that policy to be issued. While that process has been ongoing, foreign government agents have continued to lobby localities to accept consular cards for local identification purposes. The Subcommittee has been told that some of those localities have come to the Federal Government looking for guidance but that no guidance was forthcoming because the Federal Government has failed to agree on a policy for accepting consular cards.
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Because the Federal Government has been silent on this issue, localities have had to decide on their own whether to accept consular identification cards based on the information that was available to them, information provided by interested and concerned citizens and the statements of the lobbying foreign governments themselves. In the absence of Federal guidance, many localities have decided to accept those cards while the Federal Government has been assessing what its position on the acceptance of the cards should be.
In fact, on Monday, Indianapolis, IN, to accept the Mexican identification card known as the Matricula Consular. The fact that so many localities have made the decision to accept consular cards for domestic identification purposes without guidance from the Federal Government is a source of concern, particularly in light of testimony that this Subcommittee received at last week's hearing.
Marty Dinerstein, who appeared before the Subcommittee last week, explained why secure documents are essential to homeland security. She recounted the shock felt by the American people when they learned that 18 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, cold-blooded murderers of innocent men, women and children, possessed State-issued or counterfeit driver's licenses and ID cards.
Witnesses at that hearing told the Subcommittee, however, that consular identification cards, the acceptance of which has skyrocketed since September 11, 2001, are not secure. Witnesses also argued that consular identification documents are not reliable; that there is no assurance that the document accurately identifies the bearer of the card. In particular, the Subcommittee has been told that the breeder documents used to obtain consular cards are not authenticated. The lack of such authentication is an issue, because reports indicate that counterfeit birth certificates are readily available.
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As Steve McCraw notes in his testimony, Mexican birth certificates, for example, are easy to forge and are a major item on the project list of the fraudulent document trade currently flourishing across the country and around the world. At that hearing last Thursday, Ms. Dinerstein also told the Subcommittee that there are no safeguards in place to prevent the multiple issuance of Matriculas to a single individual. There appears to be substantial merit to this claim. This Subcommittee has received credible reports that aliens have been arrested carrying multiple consular identification cards bearing their own pictures but with different names. Of particular note is a memo sent by the Border Patrol agent in charge in Riverside, California, to the sheriff of San Bernardino County, who was considering allowing his deputies to accept the Matricula. The Patrol agent in charge explained that his office had arrested many Mexican aliens who had, in their possession, multiple valid Matriculas in different names.
These arrestees, including one known alien smuggler with an extensive criminal history, found in a house with 25 smuggled aliens who had seven Matriculas in his possession, each bearing his picture and each with a different name. This claim is also borne out in the FBI's testimony.
Witnesses at the June 19 hearing also identified other issues raised by local acceptance of consular cards for issues that were unrelated to the reliability and security of the cards. Witnesses explained how local police acceptance of consular cards leaves a local police officer wholly reliant on a consular official, an agent of a foreign country, to verify the authenticity of the card or to gain access to any of the background information submitted with the card.
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As Ms. Dinerstein stated, ''this renders U.S. law enforcement agencies impotent to conduct a thorough background investigation,'' if such a card is presented to a police officer. Witnesses at that hearing also discussed the fact that the documents could hide possible criminal and terrorist activity. Senator Andrews from Colorado put it best when he compared local acceptance of consular cards to people at an airport bypassing the metal detector and the security check and just walking through the side door.
To understand the potential criminal and national security risks that consular identification cards pose, it is important to note the critical work that the State Department's consular officers do at our consulates abroad. They review the background of aliens who are seeking visas to come to the United States. They work to ensure that aliens are not admitted to the United States if they have committed crimes in their home countries. In certain cases, they request additional guidance from other U.S. agencies to ensure that an alien seeking admission will not pose a terrorism risk to the American people.
It is also important to note the important role that inspectors at our ports of entry play in protecting our national security. Those inspectors closely examine identification documents from aliens seeking admission at the ports of entry. They check databases of known criminals and security risks. They evaluate whether an alien may be inadmissible on any ground. They screen those who want to come to our country.
No background checks are run, however, when an alien applies for a consular identification card. No investigation is undertaken to assess the possible risk that an alien poses a risk to the American people. In the best-case scenario, an alien applying for a consular identification card fills out a form and presents identification documents to the consular officer. That is it. No criminal grounds for denial; no risk assessments. The foreign government's only interest is the welfare of the alien, not the wellbeing of the American people.
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Witnesses at last week's hearing also explained how local acceptance of consular cards undermines our nation's immigration policies. Acceptance of consular cards by States and localities provides cover for aliens in the United States. It allows aliens to bypass the system that Congress had established to allow aliens to come lawfully to the United States and enjoy the freedoms and blessings that our country offers.
It gives a document to undocumented aliens. I question whether the States and localities that have agreed to accept consular cards for domestic identification purposes would have made that choice if they were aware of these issues. I doubt that States and localities would have taken the chance of accepting the cards if they believed that acceptance could expose their citizens to aliens who pose an unchecked criminal or national security risk. I also doubt that they would have deliberately made a decision that could have been at odds with our nation's immigration laws or that would have been unfair to the thousands of aliens who wait patiently abroad to enter our country legally.
Because the Federal Government has failed to formulate a policy on domestic acceptance of consular cards and because the Federal Government has failed to undertake an investigation into the liability and security of those cards, States and localities have been placed in a position in which they have had to take those chances and make those decisions however.
I would like to make one last point before we continue. Testimony for this hearing was due at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. This deadline was set to allow Members sufficient time to prepare for this hearing. Testimony was not received, however, until yesterday evening. This is unacceptable. This Subcommittee has not only the authority but also the duty to oversee the implementation of our immigration laws and policies. Late submission of testimony hinders the Members of this Subcommittee in preparing for oversight hearings and in fulfilling that duty. I expect all testimony from all witnesses to be submitted in a timely manner. I especially expect testimony from Federal Government witnesses to be submitted in accordance with the time frames set by this Committee.
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I have on many occasions expressed my willingness to ensure that the three Federal departments represented today have sufficient resources to carry out their immigration responsibilities. This Subcommittee's relationship with each of your departments is a two-way street, however. I expect in return that each of your departments and this Administration will be responsive to this Subcommittee in a timely manner. And I realize the three witnesses before us today had very little to do with the timeliness of the submission of your testimony, but if you could take that message back for us, we would surely appreciate it.
I now turn to Representative Howard Berman, who is serving as Ranking Member today, for an opening statement that he would make.
Mr. BERMAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. A little while ago, the Ranking Member, Sheila Jackson Lee, asked me if I would sit in as long as I could this morning because of her obligations on the Homeland Security Committee, where she also serves. I would like initially permission for her statement to be included in the record.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection.
Mr. BERMAN. The Chairman has given a very extensive, thorough opening statement, and while there are points in that opening statement that I agree with, there are a number I question. But rather thanI did not take notes as he spoke and have not had a chance to read his testimony, understanding that he is not obligated to give me his testimony on Tuesday at noon. Rather than hit and miss, I would just make a couple of points. I would bring into question the assertion that the only interest of the consulates that provide these cards is in helping the alien. If the implication of that is that the consulates are knowingly giving cards to people who are not the people that they claim they are, and the consulate is not doing anything to verify whether or not that person is the person that he or she asserts he is; I do not believe that. I do not believe that is true of the consulate in Los Angeles in my area. I am sure it is not, and I do not think we should attribute motives to institutions of our neighbor Mexico or any other government without a more fundamental foundation being laid for making that kind of conclusion about motivations.
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Secondly, there are non-State institutions in this country that have concluded that these identifiers are accurate enough to give them the assurance to do things like cash checks and handle money for an individual that if they did not would otherwise force that person to go to loan sharks and usurious check cashing institutions to make any financial transactions.
By and large, the banking institutions in this country are not frivolous about the kind of identification that they will use to assure that the individual is who he or she says he is. I am sure mistakes happen, but I would not be so quick to challenge the security of these cards, and it is unclear to me exactly why these cards are any less secure than the passports that we commonly, in the Federal Government commonly accepts as secure identifiers to justify all kinds of privileges.
To the extent that one has questions, and I listened with interest to the Chairman's citation regarding some specific incidents, and I think they are worth following up on, but to the extent one has doubts about the security of those documents, one could also have doubts about the security of passports.
And the final point is September 11. The vast majority of the terrorists who engaged in that conduct were here on visas issued by United States Government agencies. They were not here based on illegal entry and then obtaining identifiers from their government's consulates in this country. And so, I think we should be careful towe had serious problems in dealing with watch lists and integration of different agency functions which must be corrected. But to sort of deflect that issue and take the emotionality of that issue and apply it to the issue of these consulate-issued identifiers I think creates an impression which is not very fair.
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And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith, for an opening statement.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Chairman, thank you once again for having a hearing on a very timely subject and also, thank you for your very strong opening statements.
Just a couple of comments: one is in regards to one of our witnesses, Mr. Verdery, who was simply sworn into his present position yesterday at the Department of Homeland Security and is testifying today. He is off to a fast start and for that reason probably ought to be entitled to at least one pass on one question. [Laughter.]
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Not necessarily. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH. The other, Mr. Chairman, is that unfortunately, I have two other Committees that are meeting and are marking up legislation, so I will not be necessarily able to stay for all of the testimony, but I hope to shuttle back and forth. Finally, Mr. Chairman, I thought it might be of interest to the Members of the Subcommittee as well as perhaps to our witnesses, the results of several public opinion polls that have been conducted in just the last several months and that I have put together and I thought might be relevant today.
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This is a Roper Poll just a couple of months ago. The question was how serious of a national problem do you think illegal immigration into the United States is? Eighty-six percent of the American people thought that illegal immigration was a serious problem. On another question, again, the same Roper Poll, 85 percent of the American people agree with this statement: Congress should pass a law requiring State and local governments and law enforcement agencies to apprehend and turn over to the INS illegal immigrants with whom they come into contact. And a third question, I will not go into a lot of them; a lot of the questions dealt with both illegal and legal immigration, but a third question dealing with illegal immigration was this: that 83 percent of the American people agree that the Federal Government should strictly enforce present laws calling for heavy fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Now that question, I think, can be related to the use of the Matricula cards by banks, because they are basically employers giving recognition to individuals who are in the country illegally.
Mr. Chairman, these percentages, 86 percent, 83 percent, are astronomical in almost any context when you ask the American people how they feel about issues. And I think the point here is simply to point out that there are a number of interest groups, many editorial writers and not a few politicians and perhaps a few individuals associated with the Administration who are simply on the wrong side of the vast majority of the American people. And I think we ought to keep that in mind as we go forward with hearings and legislation.
Mr. BERMAN. Will the gentleman yield?
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. SMITH. I will be happy to yield to my friend from California.
Mr. BERMAN. I question the methodology of the poll, because I would have a hard time believing that there are 14 percent of the American people who are not against illegal immigration.
Mr. SMITH. Does that mean you would have said you thought illegal immigration was a serious problem? You would have voted the way the American people would have?
Mr. BERMAN. If voting the way you vote is the way most of the American people would have voted on some of these issues, perhaps not. [Laughter.]
But I would certainly answer affirmative to the question that I think illegal immigration is a serious problem and has to be dealt with.
Mr. SMITH. To reclaim my time, I read the questions. I thought they were accurate and objective questions. And it is reassuring to me if the gentleman from California seemed to agree with most of the American people on these poll results. But I appreciate his comments and yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sánchez, for an opening statement.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, Chairman Hostettler and Acting Ranking Member Berman.
I am not going to make a long statement this morning, since I was able to speak at last week's hearing on this topic. I just want to emphasize a few points that I made then.
Consular identification cards have been used for over 100 years. And recently, however, people have begun raising concerns about the use of these cards. And frankly, it is not exactly clear to me why. For example, I have heard it argued that people use them so that they can skirt immigration laws. But the reality is that these cards do not establish any kind of immigration or other benefits. They merely are used to allow foreign visitors to this country to establish their identity.
Others have argued that the consular ID cards are not secure documents, but my understanding, based on information that I have, is that they are more secure than many types of ID, including U.S. passports. I would agree that it may be possible for someone to make a false consular ID card, but my question to those who are concerned about it is what document in existence today is impossible to forge? It seems to me that there is a great deal of fuss being made about cards that, in essence, are just helping police and other officials do their jobs.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses, and I hope that at the end of the day, we will be able to agree that the use of consular ID cards actually works to enhance the security of this nation, not to break it down.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Flake, for an opening statement.
Mr. FLAKE. I thank the Chairman. I spoke also at the last hearing.
I just want to say that consular IDs, as have been mentioned, have been around for 100 years. They are in use. I think it is a great thing. I am glad they are out there. I am glad that identification exists to this extent. I do have issues, though, with whether or not the Federal Government should accept them for identification, and the fact that they are not secure is a concern to me. I have legislation of my own on driver's licenses. Many of the terrorists, as has been mentioned, came here with a temporary visa and were able to get long-term driver's licenses. In my own State of Arizona, they issue driver's licenses for up to 44 years. If you are 16; you are here; you can get it until you are 60.
A lot of States are going that direction, where you have a driver's license that is good for a number of years. If you are here on a temporary visa, you can go in and get a driver's license that lasts a lot longer than your temporary visa. My legislation would say that your driver's license can last no longer than your temporary visa, the expiration date.
This is in a similar vein to the legislation that Representative Gallegly has. It simply says that the Federal Government should not use this for secure identification. And that is my position. I look forward to this testimony this morning.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman from Arizona.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly, for an opening statement.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I believe it is important to respond to a number of the arguments that have been made by supporters of the foreign consulate cards being used for legitimate ID. Supporters of these cards claim that the consular cards have been used for over 130 years, as Representative Sánchez just mentioned. And that is true.
However, while issuing them has been a routine activity for many countries, there has always been an assumption that the cards were issued to people who were legally in the host country. In addition, no country I am aware of has ever accepted foreign-issued consular cards for identification purposes or domestic services.
In March of 2002, the Government of Mexico began issuing the cards wholesale to illegal immigrants in the United States. According to published statements by the Mexican officials, they have issued more than 1.2 million cards in the past year alone. The Government of Guatemala, likewise, has started to issue consular cards to illegal immigrants, and other countries have announced their intent to do so, including Brazil, Poland, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In the case of Nicaragua, the government officials there have stated that they are modeling their program after Mexico's. All of this, Mr. Chairman, is unprecedented. It is also true, as stated by consular card supporters, that all six of these countries are well within their rights to issue the cards, and many showed good faith by working with the State Department to develop the program.
The problem is that our Government's own failure to act responsibly in the interests of the safety of our citizens. The only people who need these cards are illegal immigrants, sometimes criminals or maybe terrorists. The State Department, foreign governments and the supporters of these cards do not deny that illegal immigrants are the principal beneficiary of these programs. Yet, the State Department representatives acknowledged in Congressional briefings that they had an active dialogue with Mexico in designing its program, and a U.S. Embassy cable from Managua explicitly asked the State Department in Washington for guidance regarding the implementation of Nicaragua's consular card program.
Supporters of the consular cards also state that those who need these cards are not terrorists but hard-working and undocumented immigrants who work in the lowest-paying jobs in our agriculture and hotel industries. That card only allows them to bank and send money back to their relatives. While it is correct that the overwhelming, almost total number of those seeking cards, are not terrorists, it is equally true that the terrorist states are certainly watching this program to see how it may be exploited.
Within the next few years, six countries could be 60. Are we willing to accept consular cards from the Saudis, from the Syrians, from Colombia, who are also seeking low-paying jobs. The truth is that Poland, Mexico, Nicaragua, and other countries that are trying to expand their consular programs in the United States are doing so in an effort to force a de facto amnesty for their nationals illegally in the country and allow them to receive services to which they are not entitled, among which is the ability to use cards to board commercial airliners, Mr. Chairman, a dramatic step back toward the type of security we had prior to 9/11.
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In a recent cable from the U.S. Embassy in Managua to the State Department, a U.S. official noted that the Nicaraguan Government wanted its nationals to have the cards to open bank accounts, obtain utility service and possibly get driver's licenses. As we all know, 9/11 terrorists used driver's licenses as their key to operate freely in the United States, and under the Nicaraguan law, a person needs no documentation to prove identity; only two witnesses to vouch for them with no one vouching for the vouchers.
Mr. Chairman, the current consular programs are direct assaults on this country's sovereignty. Issuing consular identification cards to illegal immigrants undermines the immigration enforcement policies of the United States, and it weakens the security and puts Americans at great peril. Supporters have stated that there is no political will to deport illegals in this country and that these people should be integrated into our community, perhaps through the distribution of consular cards. To that, I say the desire of Americans to never repeat 9/11 is will enough to eliminate this program.
I have authored and introduced an Identification Integrity Act of 2003 with the exceptions of passports, which are issued under strict guidelines provided by the Government, it would prevent the Federal Government's recognition of foreign-issued IDs. This legislation has now almost 100 cosponsors, and the price, Mr. Chairman, is far too high not to end this practice.
I would just like to conclude by saying that one of my very good friends on the other side of the aisle, a Democrat from California, said to me that he was very puzzled at why people would spend money to buy a consular card that does nothing more than proves they are an illegal immigrant.
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I yield back.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
Now, at this time, I would like to introduce our panel of witnesses: Steve McCraw is the assistant director of the Office of Intelligence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Throughout his 20-year career with the FBI, Mr. McCraw has served in numerous supervisory positions, including director of the Foreign Terrorist Task Force. Prior to his appointment to the FBI, Mr. McCraw was a State trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety and taught political science at the university level. Mr. McCraw holds a master's and an undergraduate degree from West Texas State University.
Roberta S. Jacobson is the acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Ms. Jacobson joined the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern in 1986. She has also served at the State Department as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru; director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Coordinator for Cuban Affairs within the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. She was also at the National Security Council. Ms. Jacobson holds a master's of arts in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a bachelor's degree from Brown University.
C. Stewart Verdery, Jr. is the Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy and Planning at the Department of Homeland Security. He was confirmed to this position last Friday. Prior to coming to DHS, Mr. Verdery was the senior legislative counsel for the Government Affairs and Public Policy Office at Vivendi, Universal Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Vivendi Universal. Before he joined Universal, he was general counsel to the United States Senate Assistant Republican Leader Don Nickles of Oklahoma. Mr. Verdery also served as counsel to two Senate Committees and to Senator John Warner. He received his undergraduate degree from Williams College and his law degree from the University of Virginia.
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Elizabeth Davison is the director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs for Montgomery County, Maryland. She is an urban economist who has spent her 30-year career in both the private and public sector. Prior to joining the county, she was vice-president of Hammer, Siler, George Associates and Real Estate Research Corporation. Ms. Davison received her undergraduate degree from George Washington University; her graduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and has attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Once again, I want to thank all of the witnesses for your appearance today. Without objection, your full testimony will be entered into the record, and if you can limit your comments to 5 minutes, we would most surely appreciate it.
Mr. McCraw, you have the floor.
STATEMENT OF STEVEN McCRAW, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Mr. MCCRAW. Thank you, sir.
Chairman, if I may, with me today is Robert Matamoros, who is the unit chief for the money laundering unit. If you have questions relating to money laundering in that regard, he is behind me, sir.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you.
Mr. MCCRAW. And thank you for the opportunity to be here. Good morning to you, sir, and to the rest of the Committee. The one thing I would like to do is since my full testimony is going to be placed in the record is just dispense with it at this time and just discuss the issue a little bit with your permission, Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Yes.
Mr. MCCRAW. As you are awarecertainly, everyone is awareterrorism is the most important thing that the FBI does and the Department does right now. The President directed and charged the FBI and the Department to make it a number one priority. It is. And with the support of Congress, that is what we are doing.
The issue of a fictitious or a fraudulent consular ID, years ago, pre-9/11, we would simply view it in the context of a criminal matter. It would not be something that the FBI would be overly concerned about, other than the fact that they could be exploited by criminals, as they often do with fictitious IDs.
In the post-9/11 era, I mean, the FBI is charged with assessing threats and vulnerabilities. And clearly, this is a threat and a vulnerability. And as long as terroristsand it was a very good point. The 19 hijackers, in fact, used their own names. And even though they obtained, you know, State ID cards, they did use, in fact, their own identifications, even if they overstayed their visas. However, you know, it is absolutely prudent that we in the FBI and the Department and also other Government agencies look at in terms of their adaptability.
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Our number one threat is clearly Al Qaeda. They are consistent; they are patient; and clearly, they are adaptable. And frankly, any ability to get fictitious identification, they are going to exploit. Specifically, and coming from my latest assignment at the San Antonio Division of the FBI, which had 650 miles of the border, our concern there and concern nationwide in the FBI has been the number of countries that have a strong Al Qaeda presence that are exploiting the tri-border area and utilizing long-established and very well-disciplined alien smuggling organizations in Mexico to transit individuals, foreign nationals, through Mexico and into the United States. It was a concern when I was there; it is still a concern with us.
Of course, a part of the process is fictitious IDs. And anywhere, an average price, perhaps $10,000, even greater that Mexican alien smuggling organizations use and charge to transit these individuals, these foreign nationals, into the United States. So naturally, the threat that we see is in terms of them having legitimate identification in the United States; utilizing either forged consular ID cards or utilizing fraudulent ones because of birth certificates that were obtained without the proper or at least the type of authentication that we would like to see is a concern to us. There is no question about it.
One quick example to further exploit or expand upon some of the written testimony is, as alluded to, the foreign national from the Middle Eastern country. It was an Iranian arrested by the Texas Department of Public Safety officer on February 23 of 2003. He was arrested along with four individuals. The only thing that was notedin fact, the trooper called and was supported by legacy INS, Border Patrol agents showed up there; is that the Iranian had a Matricula Consular identification on his body. And through their investigation, they determined that he obtained it through his girlfriend, who got a fraudulent birth certificate through her father in Mexico and who was able to convert that into a State ID in California in the consular office in San Bernardino.
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Now, I mentioned four other instances in there, and I am not saying there are not other documents in the same category. In fact, we are concerned about all documents that are vulnerable, not just this particular one. But right now, we do have concerns about it because of what we have seen in recent months and over the last 2 years.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McCraw follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF STEVE MCCRAW
Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the important issue of consular ID cards. The Department of Justice and the FBI have been charged by the President, with the support of Congress, to protect the American people from the continuing threats of terrorism and the crimes associated therewith. It is in the context of our post-9/11 world that we present our views and concerns to the Subcommittee today.
Over the past two years, we have all seen a dramatically increased effort to promote and utilize consular ID cards as forms of identification for foreign nationals who are present in the United States. The Government of Mexico has been particularly aggressive in marketing the use of its consular ID card, the Matricula Consular. As a result of the extensive efforts to promote the use of the Matricula Consular, a number of other foreign countries are now considering the issuance of their own consular ID cards. The crucial element in the acceptance of any consular ID card is the ability to verify the actual true identity of the bearer of the card. In today's post-9/11 world, this element is all the more important because, in order to protect the American people, we must be able to determine whether an individual is who he purports to be. This is essential in our mission to identify potential terrorists, locate their means of financial support, and prevent acts of terrorism from occurring.
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Since Mexico's Matricula Consular is currently the predominant consular ID card in existence, I will focus my comments today on this particular card. It is believed that consular ID cards are primarily being utilized by illegal aliens in the United States. Foreign nationals who are present in the U.S. legally have the ability to use various alternative forms of identificationmost notably a passportfor the purposes of opening bank accounts, gaining access to federal facilities, boarding airplanes, and obtaining a state driver's license. In addition, foreign nationals who are present in the United States, either legally or illegally, have the ability to obtain a passport from their own country's embassy or consular office.
The U.S. Government has done an extensive amount of research on the Matricula Consular, to assess its viability as a reliable means of identification. The Department of Justice and the FBI have concluded that the Matricula Consular is not a reliable form of identification, due to the non-existence of any means of verifying the true identity of the card holder. The following are the primary problems with the Matricula Consular that allow criminals to fraudulently obtain the cards:
First, the Government of Mexico has no centralized database to coordinate the issuance of consular ID cards. This allows multiple cards to be issued under the same name, the same address, or with the same photograph.
Second, the Government of Mexico has no interconnected databases to provide intra-consular communication to be able to verify who has or has not applied for or received a consular ID card.
Third, the Government of 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. Mexican birth certificates are easy to forge and they are a major item on the product list of the fraudulent document trade currently flourishing across the country and around the world. A September 2002 bust of a document production operation in Washington state illustrated the size of this trade. A huge cache of fake Mexican birth certificates was discovered. It is our belief that the primary reason a market for these birth certificates exists is the demand for fraudulently-obtained Matricula Consular cards.
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Fourth, in some locations, when an individual seeking a Matricula Consular is unable to produce any documents whatsoever, he will still be issued a Matricula Consular by the Mexican consular official, if he fills out a questionnaire and satisfies the official that he is who he purports to be.
In addition to being vulnerable to fraud, the Matricula Consular is also vulnerable to forgery. There have been several generations of the card; and even the newest version can be easily replicated, despite its security features. It is our estimate that more than 90 percent of Matricula Consular cards now in circulation are earlier versions of the card, which are little more than simple laminated cards without any security features.
As a result of these problems, there are two major criminal threats posed by the cards, and one potential terrorist threat.
The first criminal threat stems from the fact that the Matricula Consular can be a perfect breeder document for establishing a false identity. It is our understanding that as many as 13 states currently accept the Matricula Consular for the purpose of obtaining a drivers' license. Once in possession of a driver's license, a criminal is well on his way to using the false identity to facilitate a variety of crimes, from money laundering to check fraud. And of course, the false identity serves to conceal a criminal who is already being sought by law enforcement. Individuals have been arrested with multiple Matricula Consular cards in their possession, each with the same photograph, but with a different name. Matching these false Matriculas are false driver's licenses, also found in the criminals' possession. Such false identities are particularly useful to facilitate the crime of money laundering, as the criminal is able to establish one or more bank accounts under completely fictitious names. Accounts based upon such fraudulent premises greatly hamper money-laundering investigations once the criminal activity is discovered. As the Subcommittee is well aware, the FBI is particularly concerned about fraudulent financial transactions in the post 9/11 environment, given the fact that foreign terrorists often rely on money transferred from within the United States.
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The second criminal threat is that of alien smuggling, a crime that has resulted in many deaths within the past year. Federal officials have arrested alien smugglers who have had as many as seven different Matricula Consular cards in their possession. The cards not only conceal the identity of the smuggler, they also serve as a magnet for the victims who are enticed to entrust their lives to the smugglers, believing that the Matricula Consular that awaits them will entitle them to all sorts of benefits within the United States.
These criminal threats are significant, but it is the terrorist threat presented by the Matricula Consular that is most worrisome. Federal officials have discovered individuals from many different countries in possession of the Matricula Consular card. Most of these individuals are citizens of other Central or South American countries. However, at least one individual of Middle Eastern descent has also been arrested in possession of the Matricula Consular card. The ability of foreign nationals to use the Matricula Consular to create a well-documented, but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely within the United States without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers. It also allows them to board planes without revealing their true identity. All of these threats are in addition to the transfer of terrorist funds, mentioned earlier.
In addition, it is important to note that the White House Homeland Security Council is currently chairing an interagency working group that is developing recommendations on Federal policy for Federal acceptance of these cards as well as guidance to state and local governmental agencies on acceptance. The interagency group is examining policy for acceptance of all consular identification cards. They are also specifically examining counterfeit and fraud concerns with the Mexican consular identification card that would impact its acceptance for identification purposes. The Department of Justice is an active participant in that group.
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The events of 9/11 forever changed our world. As unpleasant as it may be, we must face the realities of our current world as they relate to protecting the people of the United States. This requires continual vigilanceparticularly when it comes to being able to detect and deter those who might abuse the system to directly cause harm, or those who might aid and abet the financing of terrorist operations. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF ROBERTA S. JACOBSON, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE BUREAU OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS
Ms. JACOBSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Hostettler, Mr. Berman, Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss foreign consular identification cards. My name is Roberta Jacobson. I am currently acting deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and in that capacity, I am charged with overseeing our bilateral relations with Mexico and Canada.
Before addressing the issue of the Federal Government's and in particular the Department of State's response to consular identification cards, I want to emphasize that it is our top priority to ensure the safety and security of the United States and its citizens. The events of September 11 and the possibility of future terrorist attacks resonate throughout the Department and have significantly affected how we do business.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Since the start of our deliberations on this issue, safety and security have been material to the development of a policy on the issuance of foreign consular identification cards. Safety and security are also central themes in the bilateral relationship with Mexico. Every day, I witness the strong spirit of cooperation that exists between the United States and Mexico to improve the security not only of the United States but all of North America.
Indeed, just last month, in Washington, Mexican Foreign Secretary Derbez affirmed that security and counterterrorism represented the number one priority for Mexico in its bilateral relationship with the United States.
Mr. Chairman, the Administration has not taken an official position on the issuance or acceptance of foreign consular ID cards. State and other Executive Branch agencies are working to establish a comprehensive Federal Government policy on consular identifications, a policy that will affect documents now being issued or that may be issued in the future by any nation to its nationals in the U.S.
The need for a Government-wide policy became evident as Mexico and other countries have become more active in issuing or exploring the possibility of issuing such documentation and as questions about acceptance of foreign consular identification cards were raised. Beginning last year, the Department of State chaired an interagency group tasked with developing that policy. Earlier this year, the Homeland Security Council assumed the leadership of the interagency process, and we continue to support this endeavor.
All of us involved in drafting the policy are aware of the intense interest and desire for a final product that will address the many aspects of the issue. Any policy on the issuance and more importantly the acceptance of foreign consular identifications must address questions of security, reciprocity and protection for Americans abroad, our international treaty obligations, law enforcement and State and local legislation. Topics that were discussed while the Department chaired the interagency process included the effect of foreign consular identification cards on homeland security; the rights and privileges granted to the United States as well as other countries under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, U.S. obligations regarding consular protections, foreign policy goals, questions of federalism and the regulation of financial services.
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The complexity and diversity of the issue, which extends well beyond the purview of the Department of State, argues for a thorough development of any policy and underscores the need for a coordinated approach. In addition to concerns about national security, the State Department has two additional interests in the development of any policy on consular identification cards. The first is the impact of a policy on the Department's ability to carry out its responsibilities in consular affairs both domestically and abroad. On the domestic front, the Department views consular identification cards as a possible tool for facilitating consular notification by accountable law enforcement officials.
The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires that a foreign national who is arrested or otherwise detained in the United States be advised of his or her right to request the appropriate consular officials be notified of the detention without delay. The issue of consular notification is a serious one for the Department, and we are working assiduously to assure U.S. compliance.
Because foreign consular identification cards are a means to identify an individual as a foreign national, the bearer's possession may alert responsible law enforcement authorities to the need to provide notification. The Department also believes that the U.S. Government must carefully avoid taking action against consular identification cards that would foreclose our options to document or assist Americans overseas. The Department itself issues documentations other than passports for U.S. citizens abroad and at times issues similar identity cards or travel documents.
Should a foreign country decide to limit acceptance of such documentation or other traditional documentation such as State-issued IDs or driver's licenses, the actions of American citizens abroad could be seriously restricted. The Department's goal is a single, uniform policy that is applicable to all countries that issue consular identifications. While the Mexican card has recently been highlighted, it is not a new program, as you have stated. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which we are a party, allows for sending states to perform consular functions to help assist and protect their nationals.
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What has clearly changed is the scope of the Mexican program and the Government of Mexico's vigorous efforts to secure acceptance of the card by local governments and financial institutions at a time of heightened security concerns.
Given these changes, we have contacted the Government of Mexico to learn more about the technical nature of the card, and we have found the Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be responsive to our requests for information about the issuance process, security features and card production.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present this testimony, and I would be pleased to respond to any questions you have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jacobson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERTA S. JACOBSON
Chairman Hostettler, Ms. Jackson Lee, and members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Foreign Consular Identification Cards.
My name is Roberta S. Jacobson, and I am currently the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and in that capacity, I am charged with overseeing the United States' bilateral relations with Mexico and Canada.
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Before addressing the issue of the federal government's and, in particular, the Department of State's response to consular identification cards, I want to emphasize that our top priority is ensuring the security and safety of the United States and it's citizens. The events of September 11 and the possibility of future terrorist acts resonate through the Department and have significantly affected how we do business. Since the start of our deliberations, safety and security have been material to the development of a policy on the issue of foreign consular identification cards. Safety and security are also central themes in the bilateral relationship with Mexico. Everyday I witness the strong spirit of cooperation that exists between the United States and Mexico to improve the security of not only the United States, but all of North America. Indeed, just last month in a speech in Washington, Mexican Foreign Secretary Derbez affirmed that he understood and accepted that security and counter terrorism represented the number one priority for Mexico in its bilateral relationship with the U.S.
Mr. Chairman, the Administration has not taken an official position on the issuance or acceptance of foreign consular identification cards. State and other executive branch agencies are working to establish a comprehensive USG policy on foreign consular identifications, a policy that will affect documents that are being issued now or may be issued in the future by any nation to its nationals in the United States. The need for a government wide policy came evident as Mexico and other countries have become more active in issuingor exploring the possibility of issuingsuch documentation and as questions about acceptance of foreign consular identification cards were raised. Beginning last year, the Department of State chaired an interagency group tasked with developing that policy. Earlier this year, the Homeland Security Council assumed the leadership of the interagency process. The Department continues to fully support this endeavor. All of those involved in drafting this policy are aware of the intense interest and desire for a final product that will address the many aspects of this issue.
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Any policy on the issuance and, perhaps more importantly, acceptance of foreign consular identifications must address questions of security, reciprocity and protection for Americans abroad, USG international treaty obligations, law enforcement, and state and local legislation. Topics that were discussed while the Department of State chaired the interagency process included: the effect of foreign consular identification cards on homeland security; the rights and privileges granted the United States as well as other countries under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR); USG obligations regarding consular protections; foreign policy goals and objectives; questions of federalism; and the regulation of financial services. The complexity and diversity of the issuewhich extends well beyond the normal purview of the Department of Stateargues for prudence and thoroughness in the development of any policy and underscores the need for a coordinated, interagency approach.
In addition to concerns about national security, the State Department has two additional interests in the development of any policy that addresses foreign consular identification cards. The first is the impact of a policy on the Department's ability to carry out its responsibilities in the area of consular affairs, both domestically and abroad. On the domestic front, the Department views foreign consular identification cards as a possible tool for facilitating consular notification by accountable law enforcement officials. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) requires that a foreign national who is arrested or otherwise detained in the United States be advised of his or her right to request that the appropriate consular officials be notified of the detention without delay. The issue of consular notification is a serious one for the Department, which is working assiduously to ensure U.S. compliance. Because a foreign consular identification card is a means to identify an individual as a foreign national, a bearer's possession of this card can alert responsible law enforcement authorities to the need to provide consular notification.
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The Department also believes that the U.S. Government must also carefully avoid taking action against consular identification cards that foreclose our options to document or assist American citizens abroad. The Department itself issues documentation other than a passport for U.S. citizens abroad and at times occasionally issues similar identity cards or travel documents. Should a foreign country decide to limit acceptance of such documentation or other traditional documentation such as state issued identifications or driver's licenses, the actions of American citizens abroad could be seriously restricted.
The Department's goal is a single, uniform policy that is applicable to all countries that issue consular identifications. While the Mexican card has recently been highlighted, the Mexican ''matricula consular'' is not a new program. Mexico has issued cards to its citizens in the United States for more than 100 years. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which we are party, allows for sending States to perform ''consular functions'' to help, assist, and protect their nationals. What has changed is the scope of the Mexican program and the Government of Mexico's vigorous efforts to secure acceptance of the card by local governments and financial institutions at a time of heightened security concerns.
Given these changes, we have contacted the Government of Mexico to learn more about the technical nature of the card. We have found the Mexican Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be very responsive to our requests for information about the issuance process, security features, and card production.
I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to present this testimony today, and I would be pleased to respond to any questions that the Committee may have at this time.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Ms. Jacobson.
STATEMENT OF C. STEWART VERDERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY AND PLANNING, BORDER AND TRANSPORTATION SECURITY DIRECTORATE, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Mr. VERDERY. Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Acting Berman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss foreign consular identification cards. My name is Stewart Verdery. I am the assistant secretary for policy and planning in the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, known as BTS, within the Department of Homeland Security.
I have had the pleasure of working with many of you while a staffer in Congress and in private practice, and I am looking forward to continuing those relationships in my brand new capacity.
The Department of Homeland Security and the policy office within BTS in particular has been involved in the interagency process led by the Homeland Security Council to develop a comprehensive United States Government policy on foreign consular identification cards. Historically, various forms of these cards have been utilized by many countries for a variety of purposes. Foreign consular ID cards do not establish or indicate lawful U.S. immigration status and should not be viewed as valid for that purpose. Nor do they establish a foreign national's right to be or to remain in the United States.
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Immigration status of an alien in the United States can only be determined by reference to documents issued by the United States Government or, in the case of some nonimmigrants, to a U.S. Government annotation in the alien's passport. In addition, the Federal Protective Service within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is also part of BTS, does not accept the Matricula Consular or other foreign consular identification cards as identification for entry into secure Federal buildings.
In recognition of our national security requirements and interests and given the expanding use of these ID cards, it is clear that we need to develop a Federal policy on the acceptance and use of these cards for other purposes as well as guidance to State and local government agencies and appropriate private entities such as banking institutions that require identification. That work is being done through the interagency process which I and other witnesses have referred to, and I am confident that such a policy will be developed expeditiously.
The interagency group is also specifically examining counterfeit and fraud concerns with the Mexican consular identification cards, the Matricula Consular. These cards have been issued by Mexican consulates to Mexicans living abroad and have been in existence in various forms since the 19th Century. A foreign government may issue documents to its nationals. However, given the increase in the volume of requests for these cards in the past year or so and in light of the heightened security concerns in the post-9/11 environment, we are concerned at DHS about the use and acceptance of these cards.
We believe that individuals have been able to obtain multiple cards under multiple names, an occurrence which poses a significant security issue and impacts the reliability as valid forms of identification. Another concern is the extent to which consular identification cards are used as breeder documents; that is, to more easily gain access to other documentation such as driver's licenses. We are concerned that foreign consular identification cards fraudulently obtained could aid criminal activity such as money laundering by facilitating the creation of false identities.
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We at DHS and within the United States Government need to examine and are examining not only the security features of these cards but also the security of the issuance process and the documented requirements for obtaining them. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, known as BCBP, also one of the bureaus within BTS, has disseminated an intelligence alert that contains background information about the consular identification cards, including an example of a Matricula Consular.
BCBP requires reporting on the interdiction of individuals who have been caught carrying multiple cards. Further, they are working closely with other BTS agencies to coordinate any information or intelligence arising from such cases. Our goal is to develop a uniform and sound policy which will define legitimate uses for foreign identification cards while ensuring that the security of our nation is not compromised.
In developing a policy, we should ensure that foreign consular identification cards are not being used as a means for avoiding the immigration laws of the United States.
Again, I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to present testimony on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Verdery follows:]
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF C. STEWART VERDERY, JR.
Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Foreign Consular Identification Cards.
My name is Stewart Verdery, and I am the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning in the Border and Transportation Security (BTS) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security, and the policy office in BTS in particular, has been involved in an interagency process led by the Homeland Security Council to develop a comprehensive U.S. Government policy on foreign consular identification cards.
Historically, various forms of consular identification cards have been in use by many countries for a variety of purposes. Foreign consular ID cards do not establish or indicate lawful U.S. immigration status and should not be viewed as valid for that purpose, nor do they establish a foreign national's right to be or remain in the United States. Immigration status of an alien in the United States can be determined only by reference to documents issued by the U.S. Government or, in the case of some non-immigrants, to a U.S. Government annotation in the alien's passport. In addition, the Federal Protective Service within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not accept the matricula consular as identification for entry into secure Federal buildings.
Page 152 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 However, in recognition of our national security requirements and interests, and given the expanding use of consular identification cards, it is clear that we need to develop Federal policy on the acceptance and use of these cards for other purposes, as well as guidance to state and local government agencies and appropriate private entities such as banking institutions. That work is being done through the interagency process to which I referred. I am confident that such policy will be developed expeditiously.
The interagency group is also specifically examining counterfeit and fraud concerns with the Mexican consular identification cards. The matricula consular, issued by Mexican consulates to Mexicans living abroad, has been in existence in various forms since the 19th century. A foreign government may issue documents to its nationals. However, given the increase in the volume of requests for these cards in the past year, and in light of heightened security concerns in the post 9/11 environment, we are concerned about the acceptance and use of these cards. We believe that individuals have been able to obtain multiple cards under multiple names, an occurrence which poses a significant security issue and impacts their reliability as valid forms of identification.
Another concern is the extent to which consular identification cards are used as ''breeder documents,'' that is, to more easily gain access to other documentation, such as drivers' licenses. We are concerned that foreign consular identification cards fraudulently obtained could aid criminal activitysuch as money launderingby facilitating the creation of false identities. We need to examine not only the security features of these cards but also the security of the issuance process and the documentary requirements for obtaining them.
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) has disseminated an intelligence alert that contains background information about the consular identification cards, including an example of a matricula consular. BCBP requires reporting on the interdiction of individuals who have been caught carrying multiple cards. Further, they will work closely with other BTS agencies to coordinate any information and intelligence arising from such cases.
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Our goal is to develop a uniform and sound policy which will define the legitimate uses for foreign consular identification cards while ensuring that the security of our nation is not compromised. In developing a policy, we should ensure that foreign consular identification cards are not being used as means for avoiding the immigration laws of the United States.
I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to present this testimony and I would be pleased to respond to any questions that the Committee may have.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. Verdery.
STATEMENT OF ELIZABETH DAVISON, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
Ms. DAVISON. Thank you very much, Chairman Hostettler; Acting Ranking Member Berman and other Members of the Committee. For the record, my name is Elizabeth Davison, and I am the director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs for Montgomery County, Maryland, adjacent to the District of Columbia.
And I am here really presenting the views of our County Executive, Douglas Duncan, on the use of the Matricula Consular or the ID cards that are issued by the Government of Mexico for over 100 years and most recently also by the Government of Guatemala to citizens of their countries who are living in the U.S.
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Montgomery County has a very large base of Hispanic residents. According to the Census of 2000, there were over 100,000 Hispanic residents. That is about 12 percent of our county, which is a county of roughly 900,000 population; clearly, it is a very large community.
Many of these residents are legal; many of them have passports. But an increasing number do not. And clearly, with that number, it is very difficult for the county to deal with tens of thousands of people with no documentation; no identity. Our County Executive, Douglas Duncan, recently announced that Montgomery County will accept the Matricula Consular as identification for all county services. And I do want to stress that this initiative was not based on these foreign governments lobbying the County Executive. This came up because I heard news reports about these cards; talked with our County Executive after doing some research with some other local governments about how they used them and what they were.
I also went to the Mexican Consulate here in Washington, DC with one of my Hispanic staff members; saw the operation; asked them questions about how did this work; how did they determine people's identity. And so, we did see firsthand how this operation was conducted.
At that point, we then contacted some of the other Hispanic governments, South American, Central American, to find out what they were doing. Because this seemed like a way that we could work with this population and have a little bit more, I guess, assurance of who the people were. While the county local government does not have a role in immigration, we do have a role in public safety, public health, education, and other basic local services. That is really the major reason why we have determined to accept these cards.
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Why are there benefits to having these cards from a local government's point of view? Let me go through several reasons. First of all, with the banks that have been accepting these cards, it then becomes a first step to establishing credit. And credit is an extremely important thing in this society. We found without credit or without a bank account that this population becomes a target for crime, including muggings, and many of the apartment complexes which house these immigrants find that they have a very high break-in rate, because thieves know that there is cash perhaps hidden in a drawer or perhaps in a mattress, the same way that they know that these residents are likely to be carrying cash because they cannot put it in a bank account.
Also, without a credit rating, it is becoming increasingly difficult in this metropolitan area and I am sure in others to be able to rent an apartment, because they do a credit check on you. If you cannot get access to one of the apartment complexes run by a major management company, you are much more likely to go to an unlicensed, unregulated apartment complex, sometimes with unscrupulous landlords; other times with landlords who just think they are doing you a favor.
We have had experiences; perhaps you saw in the local press last year a family that was burnt alive because they were in an illegal, unlicensed basement apartment with no means of egress. My department inspects apartments, but we cannot look in every single house in Montgomery County to see if there is an illegal basement apartment, and increasingly, both the combination of the high price of housing; the scrutiny of credit checks and other background checks, and if you do not have credit, you cannot pass a credit check.
Fourth reason that the county needs to know who a person is is to establish whether they are a resident of Montgomery County. We pride ourselves on a very high level of local government services, but we clearly cannot provide those services to anybody who shows up who mayI have gotten calls from people in Arlington County when they heard we were giving away free fire detectors because of these fires, wanting us to send them to their address in Arlington County. Obviously, we got wise to that one, but if someone presented themselves at our office one of these ID cards with a local address, we would at least have some verification of them being a citizen. We cannot not plow a street when it snows if we think that there are people who are citizens of foreign countries living there. Our services are provided to all residents, whether they are legal, illegal; whether they are citizens or not citizens.
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Fifthly, when you have people who do not have access to bank accounts, they often end up using check cashing services, often which charge very high fees and also create a very run-down and unsavory appearance in our business districts. We have been working very hard, spending a lot of money to improve areas like Silver Spring, which I think is fabulous now; other areas like Wheaton, Long Branch, other parts of our community. The more there are these check cashing services, payday loan joints, the worse our business districts look and the more run-down they become.
We have also found that there are many unscrupulous and predatory businesspeople who target this population. We recently found out about a travel agent called Tiva Travel who had taken large amounts of cash from many people for trips home during the Christmas holidays but failed to actually make the reservations and buy the tickets. Many of the people who did not have bank accounts gave the cash, multiple thousands of dollars. In addition to being out that cash, they did not get their trip home.
If they had a credit card, they could have put this on a credit card and would have been protected. So we are finding that this practice of not being able to have access to a bank account is creating predatory business practices. And lastly, obviously, with homeland security, it is important for people to know who we are dealing with. During the sniper shootings in Montgomery County and throughout this region, there were some witnesses who were afraid to come forward because they were afraid they would be deported. There are other situations of witnessing crimes where, without some identification, we do not know who they are; they are afraid of coming forward.
Page 157 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In closing, I would just like to say our County Executive was concerned that without any kind of Federal policy in this area that it was being left to Montgomery County or other local counties to make up a foreign policy, in effect. And so, we have decided to accept these cards, because we cannot have tens of thousands of people with no kinds of identification, and we are actively promoting other governments of Central and South America to use these cards.
Thank you very much. I would be happy to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Davison follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ELIZABETH B. DAVISON
Good Morning. For the record, my name is Elizabeth B. Davison, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs for Montgomery County Maryland. I am here to present the views of our County Executive on the use of the Matricula Consular, or ID cards that are issued by the Government of Mexico for over 100 years, and most recently by the government of Guatemala to citizens of their countries who are living in the U.S.
Montgomery County Maryland has a large base of Hispanic residents, over 100,000 according to the US Census 2000. This is about 12 percent of the close to 900,000 population of the county. With such a large base of Hispanics from many countries, it is becoming increasingly important that they have identification. Certainly many do have passports or are American citizens with Social Security cards and other identification, but an increasing number do not.
Page 158 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our County Executive, Douglas Duncan recently announced that Montgomery County will accept the Matricula Consular as identification for all County services. It is of course important that these cards be authentic. The County is in this position because these people are residents, and a local government must deal with them as they have an effect on our community. We do not have a role in immigration, but we do have a role in public safety, public health, education and other basic local services.
Because of this need to document who people are, we have been working over the last year with several Latin American and Central American Consulates to issue these cards, since many of our residents are not from Mexico or Guatemala.
There are many reasons why having a document such as the Matricula Consular is important.
1. Several banks have been accepting this card as an ID in order to open a bank account, which is the first step to establishing credit.
2. Without a bank account, this population becomes a target for crime, including muggings and break ins to apartment complexes because they are known to carry large amounts of cash;
3. Without a credit rating, it is increasingly difficult to rent an apartment, making it more likely they are living in unlicensed and unregulated living arrangements which may be unsafe. People have died in fires in this kind of living situation, which is a great tragedy for them and their relatives and associates.
Page 159 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 4. The County needs to know if a person is a resident of the County in order to provide them County services. This identification carries a local address. Montgomery County services are very good, but clearly we need to be sure that the person who is requesting those services is indeed a resident of the County.
5. The non banked population often ends up using check cashing operations, and other very costly and often not legitimate services. These in turn create a run down appearance in our business districts, leading to further decline in these areas.
6. Other predatory business people target this population and can thrive on the proceeds. Recently my staff uncovered a travel agent who was taking people's money for plane tickets to their home countries over the holidays, and in many cases accepted cash, but did not provide authentic tickets. If these people had paid with a credit card, they would not have lost the many thousands of dollars that they did.
7. As homeland security becomes more important, we need for people to have identification that is valid, which we understand the Matricula Consular to be, since the governments of the issuing countries check very carefully to establish the identity of the person before issuing the card.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share our views with your committee on this issue which is very important to our community in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Ms. Davison.
Page 160 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The panel will now turn to a period of 5-minute questions per Member. Ms. Davison, my first question is to you. When Montgomery County employees, in the course of their jobs, confront a consular ID card, confront an individual who puts forward a consular ID card for identification, and your employees contact the consulate, and they ask for the status of the alien, how often do they determine that the alien is in the country illegally?
Ms. DAVISON. Well, we do not do that. I mean, we do not ask if people are legal or illegal. Sometimes, we will need to have some identification just to know who the name of that person is and that they are a resident of the county. That is as far as we go with checking their identification.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. And you are familiar with the traditional purpose of the consular ID card, as testified by Ms. Jacobson, in that a Government official in the United States generally contacts a consulate toand that is the purpose of a consular ID card. But you do not do that in Montgomery County?
Ms. DAVISON. No, we are just trying to determine if they are residents of the county. And if they have no ID, we do not know. If they have this card which does have a local address, we can determine that they are residents of the county. Our services are not based on whether someone is here illegally or legally or whether they are a citizen of the U.S. or they are not.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. And that is a point in your testimony that you make when you say it is not your role to deal with immigration law, which is intriguing to me, because right after that, you mentionlet me quote it correctly here''that we have been working over the last year with several Latin American and Central American consulates.'' And in your oral testimony, you say that was actually initiated by your office.
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Ms. DAVISON. That is right.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I am intrigued, as Montgomery County does not feel that it is their obligation to deal with Federal immigration law, how do you make the distinction with regard to dialogue with foreign governments on issues whose jurisdiction is international agreements, such as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations? How do you draw the distinction between not dealing with Federal immigration law but initiating conversations, dialogues with foreign governments?
Ms. DAVISON. Well, as I said, we are kind of left in a situation where we have a large number of people that we need to know who they are. Our conversations with these consuls have been to try and find out if they are thinking of issuing them; just what the status of it was and telling them that we would accept the card if they did that. Clearly, it does not go any further than that kind of discussion.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you.
Mr. McCraw, in your testimony, you state that individuals have been arrested with multiple Matricula cards which bear the individual's picture but a different name.
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. In what ways could the possession of multiple consular ID cards assist a criminal to engage in money laundering?
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Mr. MCCRAW. Well, one of the ways is to get multiple bank accounts, and in terms of void and in terms of suspicious activity reporting; and a number of reasons in terms of when you are a criminal, hiding your identity is important, especially if you are dealing with the money laundering side of it but also in terms of, in today's society, and as Ms. Davison pointed out, you know, you need identities to get certain types of services, whether it is apartment services or banking services. And it is very important to us, looking from a national security standpoint or working a criminal case to make sure that that individual that we go back and we track and we trace is, in fact, that same individual. And it certainly increases the ease of actually linking individuals to terrorism and also to other criminal acts.
And so, it is critically important that we do it one way or the other. Certainly, when you have something that is being used that is systemically flawed, and there are a number of things that are a problem with it. And believe me, we do notthe FBI and the Department, we do notcertainly, I would like to say that the Government of Mexico has been tremendous in terms of working with us in terrorism along the border.
This has nothing to do with that. It just has to do with this particular card. And there are four vulnerabilities that we see with this particular card that are in my testimony. And the first thing is that there is no database, centralized database. The databases are not interconnected. And the fundamental flaw is the authentication is, in fact, birth certificates. And we have problems with that even in the United States. And when we are able to seize, you know, large loads of these documents, and we know that these documents are out there, and we have got examples in terms of how they can get it, then, it makes it much more difficult to make sure that that individual is who he or she says they are.
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Moreover, it is a breeder ground for additional documents. If individual governments allow it to be, you know, what we view as a problematic document to be valid, then, of course, they can produce and get driver's licenses and State IDs from there, which means, you know, you can continue on. And if you have seven different ones, then, you can get seven different driver's licenses, and you can have seven different bank accounts. And you can continue to hide behind this.
I did not mean to continue on, but those are the problems, as we see it. Again, we are assessing the vulnerability of that particular card as it relates to a threat.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. McCraw.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, for 5 minutes.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank all the witnesses for their useful testimony on this issue.
Mr. McCraw, let me read you something fromit is a report by the Migration Policy Institute.
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes.
Mr. BERMAN. Focused specifically on local law enforcement, it essentially concludes that they are among the most enthusiastic backers of the consular IDs and cites reasons why. Police departments welcome the cards for the following reasons: when the police stop someone without identification on a minor charge, they are forced to hold them overnight when a citation would otherwise suffice. Resources are also wasted; people without identification are also more likely to flee when stopped by the police. The Matriculas make it easier to identify dead or unconscious people. By facilitating the use of banks, the cards help immigrants avoid carrying or stockpiling large amounts of cash, which makes them targets for robbery and home invasions; in some cases, the police themselves have asked local banks to accept the Matricula. Having identification encourages people to report crimes and to come forward as witnesses. It allows police to keep better records.
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Now, I would be interested in your comments on that. And the more general comment: I think it is a mistake for peopleI think one can conclude that these cards are a good thing, even accepting what has been assumed by many that large numbers of undocumented people are getting these cards or that that is the primary motivation for at least some people to get the card; that there are two different issues here: how to deal with stopping illegal immigration and, in a country which has anywhere from 6 million to 10 millionwho knows exactly?undocumented immigrants, what is the role of this card?
Why is law enforcement better off with people having no identification card than this identification card, even with the limits that there may be on the extent to which that identification card reflects the true name and address? And then, I have one follow-up question.
Mr. MCCRAW. Well, I think you make some very good points, and I think Ms. Davison made some very good points. And from a former State trooper having the same dilemma, although a couple of decades ago, it was always problematic when you come in contact with no ID, and you have no basis to do anything. So clearly, something was always better than nothing, and I understand that.
Mr. BERMAN. I appreciate that admission. It does not mean this is foolproof. It does not mean this cannot be phony, but by and large, something is better than nothing.
Now, your first reason for concern, I am curious about in terms ofwell, the databases. Compare with me. Let's take Mexico. The question of getting a passport, which is by and large accepted as a pretty darn good identifier, versus one of these cards. What is the nature of the database that is used in Mexico to issue a passport that makes it so much more likely to be valid? In other words, we are not talking about phony passports here; we are talking about real passports issued to people; makes the passport so much better than this card in terms of the databases used?
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Mr. MCCRAW. You bring up a good point, you know, passport, you know, from our standpoint is a better document. It is scrutinized more. The State Department has controls for standards. I know they are working toward a number of different things.
Mr. BERMAN. How does the State Department control Mexican passports?
Mr. MCCRAW. Well, there are some agreements, and certainly, INSexcuse me; I have not changed with the initialsbut legacy INS will work on it; maybe next two or 3 years, they will get it right.
They know; those inspectors are trained in what to look for in terms of forged documents as they come through in terms of passports. At least from the forgery standpoint, and I think there are some universal standards
Mr. BERMAN. Well, forgery
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes.
Mr. BERMAN. But I am talking here about a valid passport issued by the Mexican Government.
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes.
Page 166 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. BERMAN. It is not a forgery.
Mr. MCCRAW. No, sir.
Mr. BERMAN. The question is, is it being issued to that person?
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, and I cannot answer your direct question. I do know that we have not seen the trend of criminals utilizing fraudulent or forged passports, Mexican passports, in the U.S., not compared to the trends I discussed in my written testimony. You know, we are just describing a vulnerability right now, and I understand.
Mr. BERMAN. But on the basic question, is it fair to say that you, at this point, could not tell me why the database used by the Mexican Government for the issuance of passports
Mr. MCCRAW. No, sir.
Mr. BERMAN.is totally different than the database used by the consulates to issue the consular ID cards?
Mr. MCCRAW. Sir, I could not even tell you if they had a database
Mr. BERMAN. All right.
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. MCCRAW.from the State Department for the passports.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And this has been a very informative hearing so far.
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I read your testimony before I got here this morning, and you have talked about the vulnerability of the Matricula Consular to forgery and so on and so forth. You also in your testimony refer to several generations of this card, saying that there have been some integrated security in recent cards, although 90 percent of the cards that are out there are the older generation which are very vulnerable to counterfeit, forgery and so forth.
You also mention in your statement that it is your understanding that as many as 13 States currently accept Matricula Consular for the purposes of obtaining a driver's license as a breeder document.
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Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Could you just follow up with that a little bit and give us a little bit better understanding of why we are concerned about this as a breeder document?
Mr. MCCRAW. Well, because once you have it, you know, once you have establishedin the United States, it is one of the documents recognized for you to fly; a bank account; a number of different functions once you have a State either ID or a State driver's license. So any document that will allow you to get that, of course, is important, the source documentation. So if we take it back to the Matricula Consular, and if there is a flawed process, and we perceive there are vulnerabilities in it, then, the driver's licenseit does not matter what the State does in terms of the precautions they place on that driver's license. They can have all of the safeguards in the world, and they can scrutinize all they want. But if they are depending upon the breeder document, and that breeder document is flawed, then, of course, that driver's license or that State ID is going to be flawed as well.
Mr. GALLEGLY. And 90 percent of these are really blatantly flawed because of the vulnerability with absolutely minimal validity to start with for the
Mr. MCCRAW. They are very susceptible
Mr. GALLEGLY. To forgery.
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Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir, that is correct.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Ms. Jacobson, who needs Matricula Consular in the United States other than an illegal immigrant?
Ms. JACOBSON. I do not know that I could speak to exactly who else might use them but
Mr. GALLEGLY. But you say that is the principal beneficiary?
Ms. JACOBSON. I really do not know that. We have not studied that. But Mexican citizens living in the United States are asked to register at consulates for purposes of being notified by their Government. Matriculas Consular, unlike passports, would have a local address so that the consulate could contact them. So there are other purposes for which they are issued, primarily the fact that they have the residence on them.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Ms. Jacobson, you have said that you have been involved in discussing with the Mexican Government, and they have been very cooperative and sensitive to our concerns about forgery and validity of these documents, and they want to work with us on that. Is that correct? They want to work with us to make sure that the document is secure?
Ms. JACOBSON. As secure as possible, right.
Page 170 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. GALLEGLY. Do you think the Mexican Government, after Mr. McCraw's testimony that 90 percent of these documents are the earlier generation that they would be prepared to invalidate that 90 percent?
Ms. JACOBSON. I am not entirely sure about the 90 percent figure; I have heard
Mr. GALLEGLY. Well, do you think they would be prepared
Ms. JACOBSON. I understand.
Mr. GALLEGLY.with their spirit of good faith to invalidate all of those documents that do not possess the security issues that the latest generation have?
Ms. JACOBSON. What the Mexican Government has told us is that they are very interested in replacing those old cards, in part because they believe that the old card
Mr. GALLEGLY. Well, they are interested in doing it, but what are they going to do about it?
Ms. JACOBSON. They are beginning to work on a plan to replace all of the old cards. Since March 2002, they have issued only the new cards.
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Mr. GALLEGLY. But do they have a program that, effective September 12 or whatever, those are invalid?
Ms. JACOBSON. It is my understanding that that is what they are working on now. They have not announced one yet.
Mr. GALLEGLY. We have a very limited amount of time, and I appreciate your succinct answers.
Ms. Davison, who needs Matricula Consular other than illegal immigrants?
Ms. DAVISON. I do not know.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Is public housing and public benefits in Montgomery County, do you have an overabundance of public housing and really limited demand, or do you have a demand equal to the amount of services you are able to provide?
Ms. DAVISON. In terms of public housing, we have a little bit more trouble filling that up than some others, partly because it is not as well maintained as some of the private sector housing, because the Federal Government has cut back on that money. But we do have a need for affordable housing.
Mr. GALLEGLY. For the record, you have stated that you have absolutely no discretion or care to be concerned whether a person gets public benefits in Montgomery County whether they are illegally in the United States or not; is that correct?
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Ms. DAVISON. Our services are available to anyone who is a resident of the county.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Is it also true that Montgomery County last year got $1,102,029 in SCAP funds from the Federal Government?
Ms. DAVISON. I do not know. That is not my area of authority.
Mr. GALLEGLY. The Federal Government has provided certain funds to Montgomery County; is that correct?
Ms. DAVISON. Certainly, yes.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Mr. Chairman, I see my time has expired. I yield back.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sánchez, for 5 minutes.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all of the witnesses for providing your testimony here today.
Page 173 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. McCraw, can you provide specific data on the number of cases successfully brought against individuals for using fraudulent consular ID cards? And how would this number compare with fraudulent use in the United States, say, of driver's licenses for underage drinkers or fraudulent U.S. passports used abroad?
Mr. MCCRAW. I do not have any statistics on that.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Would you consider Matricula Consulares acceptable as long as you were satisfied that they were as fraud-proof as possible?
Mr. MCCRAW. Absolutely; if they were fraud-proofwe are looking at it from a vulnerability standpoint. If they were fraud-proof, and they could be authenticated, absolutely, and we did not have this trend; I mean, we only care from the standpoint of national security, not how it is used or not used.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Have you had an opportunity to review the multi-levels of security features on the Mexican consular ID card?
Mr. MCCRAW. The new one, I have seen documents, and I have been advised that they have improved dramatically over the first generation. And although there is a study that exists that says they can be still forged, they have dramatically improved since the first iteration. I think we are on the third generation now.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. To your knowledge, is there any document in the U.S. or other foreign country that could not be forged?
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Mr. MCCRAW. There are all varying degrees of forgery. It is a constantyou know, nothing is perfect, and I am sure, as I have testified earlier, that where there are vulnerabilities, they will be exploited.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you.
Ms. Jacobson, could the failure to accept the safe and fraud-proof Mexican consular ID violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations? And if we were to violate the Vienna Convention that was signed by the U.S. back in 1963 and that guarantees that consulates can provide services to their nationals living abroad, what remedies would Mexico have for a violation of that?
Ms. JACOBSON. I am going to answer the second question first, if I might, because I do not know what remedies the Government of Mexico would have, and I would be happy to look into that. But on the first point, the fact is that, as you know, we have not prohibited use of the Matricula Consular nor have we accepted them. What the Vienna Convention says is that consulates have a right to issueto carry out functions that help, assist or protect its nationals in the receiving state. And one of those functions may be to identify their nationals, as we do overseas when we issue identification papers or ask people to register with U.S. consulates.
But the Vienna Convention does not say that governments in the receiving state must accept those cards nor that they, you know, should prohibit them. It is silent on that subject. It is the right of the foreign government to issue them, but it makes no mention of responsibility of a party to the treaty to accept them.
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Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Mistersorry; I am probably going to mispronounce your nameVerdery, is that correct?
Mr. VERDERY. Perfect.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. If, as has been stated by some of the Members of the Subcommittee, in fact, that the majority of people who use consular ID cards or the only reason for using them would be that you are in the country illegally, I guess I am trying to understand why would somebody create a fraudulent consular ID card which does not confer any type of immigration status? Would it not make more sense for folks to create false green cards or passports instead? What would be the advantage of creating a falsified consular ID card versus other types of identification that could confer immigration status?
Mr. VERDERY. Well, this is somewhat of a guess, but I think the answer would be that these are easier to forge. I know that the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement forensics lab has done an examination of comparing the Matricula Consular security features to the Mexican passport features and has found that the passport has much more security, even under the new card that is being issued. So my answer would be that I think it would be easier to forge those than the other types of documents you discussed.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. So, again, if Matricula Consulares were as fraud-proof as possible, would you then say that it would be acceptable to accept them in the United States?
Page 176 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. VERDERY. I could not give you that policy on behalf of the Administration today, but obviously, it would be a clear factor in our review of them if they were more fraud-proof. That would be a good thing. But I could not give you that determination today.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady. The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from Tennessee, Mrs. Blackburn.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all very much.
Mr. McCraw, I enjoyed reading your testimony prior to coming here, and I thank you for submitting that to us. I come from Tennessee. I am a freshman legislator. I have been in the State Senate. I led the fight to close the loophole illegal aliens were using to get valid Tennessee driver's licenses and therefore access State services. And I agree with many of the points that you have made.
Ms. Jacobson, I would like to begin my questioning with you if I may, please, ma'am. I find it very troubling that the Administration has taken no official position on the issuance or acceptance of the foreign consular identification cards, and I think in the world in which we live, that is troubling, and I wanted to see if you had any idea when you felt that the Administration would develop a position on this.
Page 177 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. JACOBSON. Well, I think that on that issue, Congresswoman Blackburn, I can speak for the three agencies here and all of the others involved in the interagency process that we really do desire to complete the process as quickly as possible. We realize there is a great need for a clear policy, and so, it will be done as expeditiously as possible, but I am afraid I cannot give you a date.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. So there are no ongoing discussions of when a policy willthere is no target for when a policy will be achieved?
Ms. JACOBSON. I think we would not want to set a target that might actually, you know, delay implementation or a policy. We just want to do it as quickly as possible. I do not know that there is a target date.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Let me ask you this: when is the Office of Foreign Missions going to demand that these consulates link their databases and address the concerns that Mr. McCraw brought out in his testimony?
Ms. JACOBSON. I think that the Office of Foreign Missions at the State Department has not determined that we have the ability to demand of the Mexican Government a particular way in which they set up issuance of the cards. However, in our discussion with the Mexican Government, we have made very clear that among the concerns that all of the agencies of the Federal Government have is the ability to get multiple cards. And we have been told by the Mexican Government that they are greatly concerned with that issue. They are currently implementing linkage of databases and that the consulates should be fully connected to check those records by the end of this year.
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. How responsive is the Mexican Government to your expressed concerns of the problems that we have with this card?
Ms. JACOBSON. Well, so far, I would say our evaluation has been that they have been quite responsive, increasing the levels of security on the card, as Mr. McCraw has mentioned; beginning a plan to replace the cards that are not that highest quality; continuing to improve the features, not stopping just with the six or seven that are in the current card but looking ahead to more. So they have been trying.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. All right; thank you, ma'am.
Mr. Verdery, who needs a Matricula Consular card other than an illegal alien in the United States?
Mr. VERDERY. Well, if I might answer your question in the reverse, if you are here legally in this country, you would either have a passport with a visa; you would have a Border Crossing Card if you were a frequent traveler that is basically the equivalent of a visa, or you would have a Permanent Residency Card.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Can you answer for me the questionwe found out in a hearing last week that banks in Mexico do not accept the Matricula Consular card as positive identification. Can you answer for me why that is? Our witnesses last week were unable to answer that question for me. I would like an answer to that one.
Page 179 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. VERDERY. Well, unfortunately, I have to join that crowd. I am not aware of the specifics of why the Mexican banks do not accept the card, if that is actually the fact. But we would be happy to look into that and get back to you.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Okay; thank you.
Ms. Davison, thank you for being with us. I am sure you are familiar with the Foreign Missions Act, and the Senate report on that act states that the Office of Foreign Missions has responsibility for ensuring the national security interest of the United States, taking into consideration when foreign governments seek to operate missions in the United States. In light of the fact that the 19 September 11 hijackers were aliens in the United States, do you believe that controlling immigration is a national security interest of our country?
Ms. DAVISON. Well, unfortunately, I am not familiar with the act that you cited. I do think that it is important for the Government to control immigration, yes. It is also up to local governments to deal with the people who are here.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Now, let me you ask you this: were you aware that banks in Mexico do not accept the Matricula Consular cards as identification?
Ms. DAVISON. I do not know whether that is true or not. I am not aware of that.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you very much.
Page 180 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.
The Chair now will entertain a second round of questions, and I will begin my questioning at this time. And before I go to the questions, I would just like to point out a few things.
The context of this hearing is knowing that consulates have issued consular ID cards for over 100 years in this country. That is not contested. That is, we are not trying to stop that. In fact, we cannot stop that according to the Vienna Convention mentioned earlier. What we are concerned about is the fact that they are being utilized in a manner that is irregular and does not comport with the traditional usage of the consular ID card, especially the fact that there is this effort afoot for ID cards to be used by local governments.
And I would like to highlight a fact that has been alluded to or been discussed or the idea of the passport, the Mexican passport being on the same level with regard to being tamper-proof and verifiable and credible as a Mexican Matricula, for example. In fact, in a report dated April 23 of this year, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Forensic Document Laboratory assessed how the security features of the most recent version of the Mexican Matricula rate in comparison to those of the Mexican passport. The Forensic Document Laboratory concluded that the present version of the Mexican passport, ''contains many more components and features that make it a much more secure document,'' end quote, finding that the, quote, ''overall complexity of the passport makes it a more difficult document to counterfeit or alter.''
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the United States Federal Government, has already determined that in the case of the consular ID card issued by the Mexican Government, namely the Mexican Matricula, is far less verifiable and is a much easier document to counterfeit or alter. So I just wanted to make those points for the record.
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I would also, Ms. Jacobson, like to ask you a question in regard to Article 55.1 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which states, and I quote: ''Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying consular privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state,'' end quote.
Ms. Jacobson, do you believe that in lobbying U.S. States and localities to accept their consular cards for identification purposes, an action that would appear to only benefit essentially illegal aliens in the United States, that foreign countries are encouraging those countries to violate U.S. immigration policy, and to follow onto that, are they not also violating the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations with regard to the interference of internal affairs of the United States?
Ms. JACOBSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you. I am going to answer as much as I can of that question not being a lawyer from our legal advisor's office. I do have someone here from the legal advisor's office who may have a bit more to add to fully complete our answer.
One of the things I would note is that the Vienna Convention also, in Article 38, talks about the ability of consular officials in receiving nations, that is, those in the United States, to interact with local officials and the national government to take actions to, as we have discussed before, help, assist or protect their citizens in that country. And so, we have, up until this point, viewed the lobbying effort by the Mexican Government as consistent with their efforts to promote the Matricula, which would help them help, assist or protect their citizens in this country.
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Now, that is promoting of Mexican citizens in this country getting a Matricula Consular, not necessarily speaking to the acceptance of that card by State, local or Federal authorities in this country. That is the provision of the card, not the acceptance of it, as I stated earlier. I do not know, Carol, whether there is anything further you would like to say.
Okay; sorry. In addition, I think one of the main purposes that we have always been comfortable with foreign governments lobbying our State and local authorities is that we actively seek to do the same overseas. We want the ability to be able to contact and lobby national and local officials in foreign governments to pursue our interests and protect our citizens, and as you know, diplomatic international law is based highly on reciprocity, and that is not a benefit that we would like to see infringed overseas.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. So it is the testimony of the Department of State that the Department of State lobbies local entities abroad to allow a consular ID card for the purposes of a driver's license, housing, and other State benefits?
Ms. JACOBSON. We lobby local officials on all sorts of issues. I do not believe we lobby them on their driver's licenses or housing privileges, but we certainly would contact local authorities in terms of accepting our documentation for services overseas.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. For services, for all types of services?
Ms. JACOBSON. No, for services we believe our citizens might be entitled to, services that we might provide to our citizens, that that document be accepted or departure from the country, for example, if people are being evacuated that they be allowed to do so based on a document we would give them; functions of that sort. I do not believe that we would necessarily be lobbying for things like driver's licenses or housing.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. I yield myself an additional minute, because I want to make this clear, because we are looking at an issue of traditional usage of a consular ID card versus a new usage of a consular ID card, and as well aslet me ask you this: does the United States Government determine if the U.S. citizen abroad is legally in the country when they ask for a consular ID card?
Ms. JACOBSON. I do not believe so. I can ask my experts, but I believe we offer support and assistance to any U.S. citizen overseas. That is our job.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. And you issue them a consular ID card.
Ms. JACOBSON. We may in certain circumstances, yes, absolutely.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. So you do not issue consular ID cards in every circumstance?
Ms. JACOBSON. No; I mean, it would depend on the circumstance as to whether that document was really needed and they did not have another one that could be used. But certainly, if they did not and were in need of a document that would allow them to travel, re-enter the United States, et cetera, we would, and we have.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Right; I thank the gentlelady.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, for 5 minutes.
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Mr. BERMAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Jacobson, are you telling me that our U.S. embassies abroad do not consider themselves responsible for enforcing those countries' immigration laws?
Ms. JACOBSON. We certainly consider ourselves to be in compliance with the foreign country's immigration laws, and we certainly
Mr. BERMAN. No, the embassies do not take on the responsibility of enforcing the foreign country's immigration laws?
Ms. JACOBSON. We do not, sir.
Mr. BERMAN. I am shocked! [Laughter.]
Do you find it that we may be going down a slippery slope to the extent that we focus our attentions in trying to prohibit or constrain a foreign government's ability to lobby either Federal or local officials on particular policies that it might end up on the fundamental principle of reciprocity restraining us from our ability to use our diplomatic personnel to lobby for what is determined to be in the interests of the United States? Do you see a slippery slope there?
Ms. JACOBSON. I do not know, Congressman, if I would call it a slippery slope, but I think that is the one thing that the State Department brings to the table in these kinds of discussions. That is precisely a perspective that we have to offer, which is that every time we take actions affecting the activities of foreign governments in the United States, we must be cognizant of the implications that those actions could have on our activities overseas to protect our citizens. That does not mean we will not take such actions. We just need to be aware.
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Mr. BERMAN. I remember the State Department asking me to lobby local officials in India to site an Enron power plant near Bombay. I mean, you know, the Administration
Ms. JACOBSON. We do lobby overseas.
Mr. BERMAN. The Administration activelyand every Administration actively haseconomic, political, intelligence, military interests in what goes on in countries.
Ms. JACOBSON. And consular.
Mr. BERMAN. And lobbies and asks other representatives of the U.S. Government to engage on those issues with those foreign governments, be they national or local. Is that not true?
Ms. JACOBSON. I do not know that we always ask others to do that. We certainly do it ourselves.
Mr. BERMAN. Well, when you can hook others to do it, you try.
I have no further questions.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
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At this time, the Chair recognizes that Mr. McCraw has been very patient but has another appointment that he needs
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, could I just ask you to give me 30 more seconds? I totally forgot the one question I wanted to ask Mr. McCraw.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The gentleman is recognized.
Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir?
Mr. BERMAN. As I hear what is said here, the issue is notif you could really get to the security of these cards, if you could really get to the security of these cards and strengthen that, that the real concerns that the FBI has and others might have, to the extent you enhance that security and the inability to forge that document, the problems with that document diminish and evaporate; is that a fair conclusion?
Mr. MCCRAW. That is; in fact, Mr. Berman, you nailed it. If we can eliminate the fraudulent part on the front end and the forgery on the other end, and that is why in the testimony we referred to the passport. There is a higher standard, according to the Department ofwhat is it now?Immigration and Customs Enforcement; their laboratory analysis, you know, concluded that it is a much more
Mr. BERMAN. Their conclusion was about not whether it was easier to get a passport; it was that it was harder to forge
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Mr. MCCRAW. Correct.
Mr. BERMAN.a passport.
Mr. MCCRAW. Correct.
Mr. BERMAN. And as you make that card more secureno one has laid a foundation for me that it is harder for the actual person to get a passport than it is to get one of these cards.
Mr. MCCRAW. That is correct; it is just that we do not see a trend that that is being the level that we are with the Matricula Consular. The one thing that I did say to you, Mr. Berman, and I apologize. I left the impression that the FBI may not be concerned, and I was about, you know, no document is better than some document. And the problem with that is I think that is true. I think that there are many good arguments, as Ms. Davison pointed out and others have pointed out, you know, that there is some value to it; even yourself in terms of a law enforcement officer.
But the slippery slope I am concerned with is that it breedsonce you have it, once you have that fictitious ID to start with and are able to build additional IDs, up to 7, 10, 15, it is very problematic from a security standpoint.
Mr. BERMAN. Fictitious ID?
Page 188 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. MCCRAW. Yes, sir.
Mr. BERMAN. So if it is an authentic ID, producing breeder documents is not a law enforcement concern.
Mr. MCCRAW. Exactly.
Mr. BERMAN. Okay.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly, for 5 minutes.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before Mr. Berman leaves, could I just ask himhe made a statement about the situation in Bombay. For the record, did that lobbying start with the previous Administration?
Mr. BERMAN. As a matter of fact, it did.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. BERMAN. Goes to show. [Laughter.]
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. If the gentleman will yield.
Mr. BERMAN. But in all fairness, I do not believe the State Department in the previous Administration was familiar with the auditing and accounting practices of that particular company at the time they asked me to do that. [Laughter.]
Mr. GALLEGLY. I appreciate it.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. If the gentleman will yield, Mr. McCraw, thank you for
Mr. MCCRAW. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee.
Mr. HOSTETTLER.being here.
Mr. MCCRAW. I appreciate it.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. You are excused.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, and I want to thank Mr. McCraw, and I would urge my colleagues who have not read his complete testimony to please do so. I think it is very telling. It is very articulate, and I think it is a very important part of the substance of this hearing.
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Ms. Davison, after hearing the FBI's testimonyI do not know whether you had the opportunity to read the testimony of Mr. McCraw, but after hearing his testimony, do you believe that Montgomery County should continuing accepting Matricula Consular?
Ms. DAVISON. Yes; I did have the opportunity to read his testimony this morning.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Do you believe they should still continue to accept Matricula Consular?
Ms. DAVISON. Yes, I do.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay; do you believe that the county, your county, has a duty not to contravene or subvert immigration laws?
Ms. DAVISON. Certainly.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Would your assessment of those that are using Matricula Consular as the only identification that they haveobviously, if that is the only thing they can present you with, and your argument for the use of it is they have nothing else; is that correct?
Ms. DAVISON. Often, that is the case, yes.
Page 191 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. GALLEGLY. Would you believe that there is a high probability that those that have that as the only form of identification are illegally in the country?
Ms. DAVISON. Probably a number of them are; that is correct
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay; having said that, do you alsoon record, I believe, and correct me if I am wrongthat any person who has a Matricula Consular receives all of the same benefits that any American citizen would receive; is that correct, as far as housing, other social benefits?
Ms. DAVISON. No; there are some Federally-subsidized programs that the county offers where there are specific regulations. I mean, there could be additional qualifications for participation.
Mr. GALLEGLY. What about housing?
Ms. DAVISON. Well, in housing, most of what we do is actually county-funded. We do have some public housing, and I do not operate that. We have a separate housing authority.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay.
Ms. DAVISON. So I am not sure about the qualifications for that.
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Mr. GALLEGLY. But there is a chance that with only Matricula Consular, they could receive public housing, because if that
Ms. DAVISON. I do not know. I doubt that, but I do not know. I would have to check with the Housing Opportunities Commission.
Mr. GALLEGLY. The issue of accepting Matricula Consular for the purposes of opening bank accounts, Ms. Jacobson, I think you were the only one who did not get the question. Were you aware that the Mexican Government themselves will not accept the Matricula Consular for the purposes of identification to open bank accounts in their own country, yet they are heavy lobbying the U.S. for the U.S. to do that when they will not do that themselves?
Ms. JACOBSON. It is my understanding, Congressman, that it is not accepted widely in Mexico because it is not designed to be used by Mexicans, so it is simply not a common card for Mexicans to use. They are not familiar with it. They have other forms of domestic ID. It is also my understanding that an increasing number of Mexican banks in the northern part of the country do accept the card, as they begin to actually see it.
Mr. GALLEGLY. But I would like to try to get back to that issue that we talked about on the first round relative to the cooperation of the Mexican Government. Do we have any specific, concrete, iron-clad understanding or agreement with the Mexican Government to invalidate the 90 percent plus or minus of the Matricula Consular documents that the FBI identified as really impossible to verify as legitimate documents?
Page 193 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. JACOBSON. All I can tell you, Congressman, is that the Foreign Minister has told the Secretary of State that they are planning to do that.
Mr. GALLEGLY. They do not have a date? To date, it is kind of happy talk?
Ms. JACOBSON. They do not have a date. They have not given us a date.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay; thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from Tennessee, Mrs. Blackburn, for 5 minutes.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.
Mr. Verdery, you have mentioned in your testimony the concern over our national security requirements and interests, and then, you go on and mention the need to develop some policies and also some guidance to our State and local governments on the acceptance of the Matricula Consular and other forms of identification from foreign governments.
If you would please list for me or give me an idea of what you envision as being the guidance. What are the type programs that you would see implemented? What are the type instructions or rules that you would see given to our State and local governments for recognizing fraudulent or forged documents for developing a way to understand what true identification is?
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Mr. VERDERY. Well, your question goes to the heart of the matter that is being looked at in the public policy review process that is undergoing, in the interagency process at the Homeland Security Council, and so, the specifics as to what the guidance might look like at the end of the day to State and local governments is still under development. I assume it will end up including things such as, you know, what type of security checks should be reviewed; concerns we have about creating identities, multiple identities; concerns about our general enforcement of immigration laws.
As you know, the Department has not only the antiterrorism mission that has been assigned to it by Congress, but the BTS also has the responsibility, through the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, to enforce our immigration laws. And so, we have obviously concernsany concerns that the cards would raise in terms of enforcement of immigration laws is also something that should be on the table in terms of our guidance. But that guidance is under development, and I could not give you any more specifics on it than that.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. If it were up to you or in your opinion, would you put the Matricula Consular card on a list of recommended documents that State and local governments accept for positive identification?
Mr. VERDERY. That is not up to me is the short answer, and so, you know, that is really a decision that would be made through the Homeland Security process, and for our Department, Secretary Ridge would make that recommendation to that process.
Page 195 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mrs. BLACKBURN. Do you think that accepting the Matricula Consular card makes it more difficult for our State and local law enforcement agencies to know the true identity of a person?
Mr. VERDERY. Well, it is clear that there are two sides of the coin on this. I forget which Member asked Mr. McCrawMr. McCraw read a report in about some police agencies believing that it was helpful and that it provided identification for people who might not otherwise have identification; it might allow people to come forward during criminal investigations and the like. So you would have to balance those pro-law enforcement benefits, so to speak, with the problems of multiple identities being created to allow organized criminal activity, money laundering, terrorist activity.
So those are kind of the law enforcement pros and cons that are being weighed in this homeland security process undergoing at the Administration as we speak.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.
I have a question or two remaining for the witnesses. I appreciate your forbearance.
But Mr. Verdery, in our post-September 11 world, it is crucial that every step be taken to protect the American people from further possible attacks, especially in relation to airline travel. Is it true that anyone in possession of a Mexican consular ID card can board an airliner today with no questions asked and it be received as a Government-issued ID?
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Mr. VERDERY. It is my understanding that those cards are being accepted by TSA when a person arrives in an airport to board a plane just as any other official Government ID would be accepted, again, to prove that the person is who they say they are. Of course, it should be remembered that this is in terms of a screening process, that anybody who raises particular concerns would then go to secondary screening. But yes, the ID would be accepted as any other Government ID.
Now, I should add, though, that that policy that has been in place is part of the review that is going on at the Homeland Security Council, and so, that is on the table as well.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. It is part of the interagency discussion that is going on?
Mr. VERDERY. Yes, sir.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. All right; I thank you very much.
I thank the panel of witnesses very much for your time and your testimony and your service to us. I would remind the record that the record will stay open for seven legislative days for any Member who wishes to make an addition.
The business before the Subcommittee being completed, we are adjourned.
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A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
It is unfortunate that the Matricula Consular card has become an immigration issue. The Matricula is not issued as an immigration document, and it has no immigration purpose. The Government of Mexico has been issuing Matriculas at their consulates around the world for more than 130 years. The consulates do this to create an official record of its citizens in other countries. The Matricula is legal proof of registration with a consulate. This registration facilitates access to protection and consular services because the certificate is evidence of Mexican nationality. Last year alone, more than a million of these cards were issued to Mexican citizens living in the United States. It does not provide immigrant status of any kind, and it cannot be used for travel, employment, or driving in the United States or in Mexico. The Matricula only attests that a Mexican consulate has verified the individual's identity.
The Matricula, however, does have some non consular uses. For instance, because it is an identification card, it provides Mexican nationals in the United States with access to banking services. Without an acceptable identification card, many Mexican nationals in this country cannot open checking or savings accounts or use any other banking services.
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In 2002, Latino immigrants sent more than $30 billion to their families in Latin America. The cost of making such transfers is much higher if the person making it has to use a money transmitting business such as Western Union or MoneyGram instead of a regulated financial institution such as a bank or a credit union. Moreover, the banks and credit unions want the Latino banking business. United States banks plan to spend at least $8.5 billion through 2005 to attract Hispanic customers.
The availability of banking services is a safety issue too. Latinos are more likely to be victims of violent crime than any other racial or ethnic group. Much of this crime relates to the perception of criminals that because Latinos do not have bank accounts, they carry large amounts of cash. As a result of this problem, police departments across the country support the use of the Matricula to enable Latinos to use mainstream financial institutions as a means of reducing crime and violence.
In an attempt to assist efforts to destroy the financial networks that support Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, the Committee on Financial Services enacted legislation to reform money laundering laws. The enacted provisions were incorporated into the USA PATRIOT Act.
Customer identification provisions in this Act have a direct impact on the use of the Matricula as a legitimate form of identification to allow consumers to open bank accounts. Specifically, Section 326 of Title III adds a new subsection that requires the Secretary to prescribe regulations setting forth minimum standards for financial institutions that relate to the identification and verification of any person who applies to open an account. These regulations permit banks to accept identification cards issued by foreign governments from customers opening new accounts, including the Matricula. The regulations went into effect on June 9, 2003, but anti-immigrant groups and some state and federal officials have expressed opposition to the regulations. Consequently, there will be further consideration of the regulations, including an additional comment period.
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Congressman Elton Gallegly has introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for Mexican citizens in the United States to use a Matricula card. His bill, the Identification Integrity Act, H.R. 687, would prohibit the federal government from accepting identification documents issued by a foreign government, except for a passport that is accepted for such purpose. I have many concerns about this bill. It seems to me that the unintended consequences of such a law far outweigh any good that Mr. Gallegly thinks the bill would achieve.
For instance, certain classes of aliens applying for humanitarian relief are not required to be in possession of a valid passport and typically will not have one in any event. This includes many aliens who are applying for asylum; aliens applying for Temporary Protected Status; Cuban nationals who arrive in the United States; and aliens requesting humanitarian parole. If the government cannot accept identification documents issued by a foreign government, how will people seeking such humanitarian relief establish their identities if they do not have passports?
Similarly, what will happen in the cases of aliens who have been exempted by law, treaty, or regulation from being required to carry a passport? At the very least, this presents difficult questions of international law.
Many people are included in this category, such as, Canadian nationals, except after a visit outside the Western Hemisphere; Mexican nationals in possession of a border crossing card with a biometric identifier who are applying for admission as temporary visitors from contiguous territory; alien employees entering pursuant to the International Boundary and Water Commission Treaty between the United States and Mexico; citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, in accordance with the Compacts of Free Association between these entities and the United States; certain aliens in transit through the United States; and aliens entering from the U.S. insular areas of Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Island.
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If laws are to be enacted to prevent Mexican nationals from using the Matricula in our country, they need to be much narrower than a provision that simply would prohibit the federal government from accepting identification documents issued by a foreign government.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ELTON GALLEGLY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Chairman, Mexican consulates began mass distribution of matricula consularsidentification cards issued by the Mexican government to illegal immigrants in the United Statesjust more than a year ago. They gained favor among illegal immigrants when banks began to accept the cards as legitimate identification to open bank accounts. Then local governments began to accept them as legitimate identification as well. Attempts are now being made the accept these cards at the federal level.
Let me clear about one point, the only people who need these cards are illegal immigrants, criminals, and terrorists.
If we accept identification issued by Mexico as legitimate in the United States, where does it stop? And what protections do we have against terrorists taking advantage of the program when we've turned over to foreign governments our sovereign right to identify people within our borders?
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Mexico, Poland, Nicaragua, and other countries trying to expand their consular ID programs in the United States are doing so in an effort to force a de facto amnesty for their nationals illegally in this country and to allow them to receive services to which they are not entitled.
And, while it's correct that the vast majority of those seeking the cards are not terrorists, it is equally true that terrorists are certainly watching this program to see how they may exploit it. Are we willing to accept consular cards from illegal Saudi Arabians, Egyptians or Colombians?
Equally disturbing is that our government is actively supporting these programs. State Department representatives admitted in a congressional briefing that the department helped Mexico design its program. And a U.S. embassy cable from Managua explicitly asks the State Department in Washington for guidance regarding the implementation of Nicaragua's consular card program.
Giving up our sovereign rights during a time of war is foolhardy and irresponsible.
To combat this threat to our security, I have authored and introduced the Identification Integrity Act of 2003. With the exception of passportswhich are issued under strict guidelines provided by the U.S.it would forbid the federal government's recognition of foreign-issued IDs.
Page 202 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The price is just too high not to end this practice now.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE STEVE KING, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Chairman Hostettler, Thank you for holding this hearing today. I have serious concerns about the acceptance of consular identification cards issued by foreign governments, including the ''Matricula Consular'' card issued by the government of Mexico. Other governments are also considering offering similar cards.
My first question that occurs to me, is why would a Mexican national in the US need or want such a card? Legal aliens in the United States already possess all of the necessary documents issued by our government. In additional, Mexican nationals can obtain a passport from their government, a highly-secure and internationally accepted form of identification. It appears to me that only illegal aliens would need to carry such cards for identification purposesissuance and acceptance of these cards encourages people to flout our immigration laws. I am also concerned that acceptance of this card, which is not as secure as a passport, will severely hamper the ability of the government to track money laundering, or accurately identify people who use the cards to open accounts.
Acceptance of the Matricula Consular card is a serious issue of national security. These cards are known by federal law enforcement officers to be insecure. Illegal aliens are often apprehended with multiple cards under multiple names. It is my understanding that according to some estimates, more than a million cards have already been issued in the U.S. with little or no regard for source documents, identity confirmation with Mexican public records, or even reliable record keeping as to the names printed on the cards.
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Given our concern about national security, it is clear that the ''Matricula Consular''or any other identification card susceptible to fraud issued by a foreign governmentshould not be recognized or accepted as a secure identification document by any federal agency or in any program or activity falling under federal regulatory jurisdiction.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses here today, on this important issue of vital national security.
LETTER FROM THE FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM (FAIR)
CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE REPORT SUBMITTED BY REP. JACKSON LEE
ARTICLE FROM ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS SUBMITTED BY REP. JACKSON LEE
CABLE FROM STATE DEPARTMENT
ARTICLE FROM ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS SUBMITTED BY SENATOR ANDREWS
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MALDEF STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY REP. STEVE KING AS REBUTTAL TO STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY REP. JACKSON LEE
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
The subject of this hearing is the federal government's response to the issuance and acceptance of the consular identification cards issued by foreign governments. We all know, however, that only one consular identification card is of concern at this hearing. That card is the Matricula Consular that the Government of Mexico has been issuing at consulates around the world for more than 130 years.
The Mexican consulates issue these cards to create an official record of its citizens in other countries. The Matricula is legal proof of such registration. This registration facilitates access to protection and consular services because the certificate is evidence of Mexican nationality. It does not provide immigrant status of any kind, and it cannot be used for travel, employment, or driving in the United States or in Mexico. The Matricula only attests that a Mexican consulate has verified the individual's identity.
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I am only aware of one federal agency that has taken a position on consular identification cards in its regulations, the Department of Treasury. In regulations promulgated pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act, the Treasury Department set forth minimum standards for financial institutions that relate to the identification and verification of any person who applies to open an account.
These regulations specifically address the use of government-issued documents as evidence of nationality or residence. The regulations permit the acceptance of government-issued documents evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard. 68 Federal Register §103.121(b)(2)(iii)(4).
In view of the fact that the Matricula is an acceptable identity document under Treasury Department regulations promulgated pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act, it is not apparent why the card should be rejected by any other government agency.
Opponents of the Matricula will argue that the document is not secure. I disagree. I am confident that the Matricula is a secure form of identification. The person requesting a Matricula must produce an original birth certificate and an official Mexican identification card such as a passport or a federal electoral card, and his photograph will be taken by the consulate office, on the consulate premises.
In addition, the Matricula has been modernized with the use of new technologies to improve its security features. The Mexican government uses security standards in making the Matricula that are similar to the ones used by the United States Government in its own official documents.
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It has visible security features such as green security paper with the official Mexican seal printed in a special security pattern, and a colored hologram with a seal that appears over the holder's photograph and changes color from green to brown.
It also has security features that are visible only under fluorescent light. The fluorescent light reveals the letters ''SRE'' across the front of the card. An infra red band appears on the upper back of the card.
In case this is not enough, there are security marks visible only with the use of a special decoder. The decoder reveals the word ''Mexico'' printed on the left side of the card, next to the holder's photograph. ''Matricular Consular ID Card'' is printed at the bottom. And, ''SRE'' is printed three times on the right side.
In addition to hearing about the federal government's response to the Matricula, we need to learn how local governments are responding to it, which is why I invited a representative from the Government of Montgomery County, Maryland, to speak at this hearing.
Montgomery County Maryland has many Hispanic residents. County Executive, Douglas Duncan, recently announced that Montgomery County would accept the Matricula Consular as identification for all County services. I am anxious to hear about why Montgomery County adopted this policy. More Mexican nationals will be affected by the practices of state and local government than by the practices of our federal government.
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RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY REP. HOSTETTLER TO ROBERTA S. JACOBSON, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE BUREAU OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS
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Page 210 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Reply24.eps