Members of the U.S. House of Representatives debated last week whether U.S. banks should accept the “matriculas consulares,” and legislation that would block their use is to be voted on in September. The matriculas are identification cards issued to Mexican nationals by consulates in the U.S.

The city of Atlanta approved in May the matricula as a valid form of identification for Mexican citizens here, and Congress passed the 21st Century Access to Banking Act last year, which also recognized it as a valid id.

“The matricula has certainly proven to be safe and reliable,” Luis Perez-Eguiarte, an Atlanta immigration attorney and former president of the Mexican American Business Chamber here, told GlobalAtlanta.

“Restricting its use would not only be to the detriment of the Mexican community, but also to the financial detriment of banking institutions that have seen their Hispanic clientele grow thanks to the matricula.”

An amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Transportation and Treasury Appropriations Bill debated in the House last week seeks to repeal the use of federal funds to implement measures allowing banks to accept the matricula, which may be used by Mexican citizens to open bank accounts in the U.S.

The sponsoring representative of the amendment, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, claimed that the matricula was an unreliable form of identification that could be used by “criminals” to access banking and other services here.

Despite a counter amendment by Rep. Ed Pastor, an Hispanic Democrat from Arizona, to strike Mr. Culbertson’s language from the bill, the amendment passed through the Appropriations Committee and is to be voted on by the full House when it reconvenes in September.

The matricula consular contains a serial number, the Mexican national’s date and place of birth, his/her U.S. address and the dates of issuance and expiration. Applicants must apply in person at any of the 47 Mexican consulate offices in the U.S., presenting a birth certificate, Mexican photo ID and proof of residence in the consular district.

Mr. Perez-Eguiarte may be reached at (404) 320-0088. The telephone number for Mr. Culbertson’s office is (202) 682-8828.