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Associated Press Newswires

Dominican Consulate In Puerto Rico Plans To Issue Ids Similar To Ones Issued By Mexican Consulates In US


3 May 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The Dominican Consulate is planning to issue ID cards to Dominican nationals living in Puerto Rico, similar to the ones issued by Mexican consulates in the United States, a diplomat said Tuesday.

The consulate wants the "matricula consular" cards to be recognized as valid IDs by police, banks, check-cashing institutions and possibly the department of motor vehicles, said Dominican Consul General Eladio Espinal Villafana. The cards will be biometric, containing the date of birth, photograph and a fingerprint of the cardholder, he said.

Thousands of migrants from the neighboring Dominican Republic make the perilous journey to the wealthier U.S. Caribbean territory, many drowning in the process. The exact number of Dominicans on the island of 4 million people is not known, but Espinal estimates around 300,000 reside here, many illegally. The cards could also serve as a registry, he said.

"There is no other way of knowing how many Dominicans are in Puerto Rico," Espinal said.

Since arriving in October, the consul said he has discussed the idea with senior police officials, executives from two banks including the island's largest -- Banco Popular -- to make it easier for Dominicans to open bank accounts, and other authorities. Most are receptive to the idea, but none has given a firm commitment, he said.

"Dominicans living in Puerto Rico need a document that identifies them, especially if they're stopped by police," Espinal said. "Hardly anybody carries their passports around because they're afraid it will get damaged."

Dominicans will have to pay for the card, but a fee has not yet been established, he said.

Since 2002, Mexican nationals living in the United States have used a similar card to open up bank accounts and for health care services.

Critics say the cards pose a danger to national security because the information and identities on them may be false. They also claim that terrorists could use the cards to establish themselves in the United States and acquire the services they need to live here until they could carry out an attack.

On Thursday, Arizona's Legislature voted to ban state government and local governments in the U.S. state from accepting ID cards issued by Mexican consulates as valid identification.

Mexican officials, however, say the cards are secure and listed in an easily searchable, computerized database. He added that Mexico has used them since 1871, and other countries including Argentina, Guatemala and Spain have also used them as a way to document the number of citizens living abroad.

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