Cops want Mexicans’ help in criminal cases |

Cops want Mexicans’ help in criminal cases

Mexican Consul General Leticia Calzada said it’s better for undocumented Mexicans to drive without a license than to buy a fake license on the black market.

Driving without a license is “a minor crime,” said Calzada, who is instead working for state-by-state legislation that would allow undocumented workers to obtain a legitimate driver’s license.

Such a bill was killed last month in the Colorado Senate.

“I am going on the radio every week, saying `Do not buy a fake driver’s license,'” she said in her forceful “listen to your mother” tone.

Her comments raised a few eyebrows Friday during an open meeting with Garfield County’s top law enforcement officers.

She underscored her point by noting, “I don’t want your jails to be clogged with Mexicans for minor offenses.”

Law enforcement officers, meanwhile, sought help from Calzada in convincing Mexicans to report crimes and serve as witnesses in criminal cases.

“It’s tough, because there’s a distrust of law enforcement,” said Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri. “But we know there are many law-abiding Mexican citizens here who are just as offended by crime as we are.

“We want an avenue for the Latino community to assist us in solving crimes,” he added.

Mario Hernandez, Calzada’s assistant and spokesman, acknowledged the difficulty that investigators face.

“We come from a culture with not much practice in public affairs,” Hernandez said. For undocumented workers, the problem is acute. “They are fearful of the situation here. They are undocumented, and they are silent.”

Marie Munday, the Latino liaison officer for the Pitkin County sheriff’s office, said her agency’s policy is to not report those who witness or are victims of crime to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Dalessandri said his officers do not ask that question either, but he acknowledged that victims and witnesses may not be totally safe from deportation if they come forward.

Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner asked Calzada for help in tracking down crime witnesses for a trial that occurs many months later.

“If they still live in the U.S., we can provide support to convince them to testify,” she said. To find witnesses in Mexico, she said the Attorney General of Mexico’s attache in Los Angeles is the best agency to help.

Carbondale police officer David Moreno praised the consul general’s office for issuing Mexican identification cards, but said he believes that many he sees are fake.

Calzada said she has ordered new equipment that will make it nearly impossible to alter the cards.

Hernandez said the consul general’s office issues the cards only to those who can produce a Mexican birth certificate, a Mexican voter card (which includes a photo and fingerprint) and the names and addresses of relatives in the United States or Mexico.

He believes the cards should be sufficient identification for Mexicans to open an American bank account and, if state laws are changed, to obtain a driver’s license.

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