As President Trump ramps up his Ttwitter attacks on Mexico, work at the Mexican Consulate General in Atlanta goes on processing passports, consular identification cards, powers of attorney, birth registrations and, until recently, voting cards.
Another preoccupation is preparing for the upcoming general elections scheduled to be held in Mexico on July 1 when voters will elect a new president to serve a six-year term, 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 128 members of the Senate.
“It’s the third time in history that Mexicans can vote from abroad,” an upbeat Javier Diaz de Leon, Mexico’s consul general based here, told Global Atlanta during an interview in his office at the consulate general located on Chantilly Drive in the northeast of Atlanta. Mr. Diaz seemed unfazed by the torrent of Trump tweets as he oversees the activities of his large staff.
The last day that the voting cards, which are required, were distributed was Saturday, March 31. The consulate’s offices remained open from 8 a.m. to midnight to accommodate those seeking cards.
When the last general elections were held in 2006 and 2012 Mexicans living abroad were able to vote but only if they had a voting card that had been acquired inside the country. But the laws have been changed and they now can vote for the upcoming election if they have a voting card issued by their consulate abroad.
The consulate’s staff of 65 doesn’t include any attorneys who are eligible to practice in the United States. But, according to Mr. Diaz, it has a network of U.S. immigration attorneys closely affiliated with the consulate.
It also has long-term established relations with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.
The consulate’s workload has increased under the Trump administration as it has to keep up with the volatile immigration policies. It provides counseling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The DACA program provides temporary protection to undocumented migrants who arrived in the U.S. as children known as “Dreamers.” The consulate has the responsibility of informing the Dreamers who were born in Mexico and live in Georgia, Alabama and most of Tennessee of their rights under the law.
To be protected under DACA they must have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, when the program began, and “undocumented,” lacking legal immigration status having arrived in the U.S. before turning 16. They also must have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 2007.
“It costs $500 to renew DACA, which for some, many times, is a large amount that they couldn’t ever afford,” Mr. Diaz said. “So we examine them on a case by case basis and give them a socioeconomic assessment to help them,” in some cases even providing financial support.
The consulate also holds clinics to guide those who haven’t renewed their DACA status out of fear or a misunderstanding of the news. Mr. Diaz acknowledged that “there are hundreds out there who haven’t renewed it.”
“They should renew it,” he added. “If they do they have at least two years of deferred action.”
While Mr. Diaz and his consulate are on the frontline of the immigration issue locally, the Mexican government is playing a critical role along with Switzerland at the United Nations in dealing with immigration issues from a global perspective.
The Mexican and Swiss permanent representatives to the United Nations co-chair the preliminary discussions concerning the Global Compact on Migration, which began in September of 2016.
The need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level was affirmed by 193 U.N. member states that voted to support the initiative. “Only a couple of countries aren’t involved,” Mr Diaz said. “And one of them is right here,” he added, referring to the United States.
Mr. Diaz said that the discussions began with establishing common ground on issues that all members could agree upon such as human trafficking and drug smuggling even if they aren’t directly related before considering specific concerns.
The compact calls for the protection of the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants “regardless of their migratory status, and at all times.”
It also calls for the support of countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants. It denounces xenophobia, racism and discrimination against migrants, and seeks guidelines for the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations.
Although the United States failed to sign with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that though the U.S. supports international cooperation on migration issues, the primary responsibility of sovereign states is “to help ensure that migration is safe, orderly and legal.”
A dozen American cities have sought to become part of the U.N. discussions including Atlanta as part of its “Welcoming Atlanta” initiative which is affiliated with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
In addition to following the vicissitudes of U.S. immigration policies, Mr. Diaz also has been actively involved in discussions concerning the North America Free Trade Agreement.
In March alone, he said that he had been on three panels with his Canadian counterpart, Nadia Theodore, consul general of Canada.
“It’s like we’re in a Broadway show,” he said. “She knows what I’m going to say and then I know what she is going to say. I’m thinking that we should put music to it.”