Hundreds protest, attend Mobile Consulate
Hundreds of people spoke out on opposing sides of the immigration issue this weekend in Glenwood Springs.But while opponents of illegal immigration raised a clamor by using the telephone lines, Mexicans answered by standing in lines – long ones.Between 600 and 700 people had shown up by early afternoon Saturday in hopes of taking advantage of the Mobile Consulate services of the Consulate General of Mexico’s Denver office.A day earlier, the Glenwood Springs Police Department was deluged by calls objecting to the department, and city’s, role in helping put on an event that was held to issue matricula consular identification cards. In 2003, the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform successfully lobbied the state legislature to ban state agencies and political subdivisions from accepting the card as valid ID in most circumstances.Police Chief Terry Wilson estimated his department took about 100 calls just Friday morning.”I’ve really enjoyed the ones that come from Massachusetts and Kentucky,” he said.Aspen resident Mike McGarry, Western Slope coordinator for CAIR, said immigration activists became involved at the request of Glenwood Springs residents who asked not to be identified. Despite all of the calls Friday, no protesters had appeared at the event by early afternoon Saturday.McGarry accused Wilson of being a “rogue cop” for helping the Mexican government use the community center for the event, and at taxpayer expense because the city didn’t charge for the center’s use.CAIR is asking Gov. Bill Owens, state Attorney General John Suthers and state lawmakers to investigate Wilson. Spokespeople for Owens and Suthers could not be reached for comment Saturday.McGarry said in a statement, “It is unimaginable that Chief Wilson would provide his city’s facilities at taxpayers’ expense to the (Mexican) government to sell its outlawed ID card, a card the FBI and the Justice Department have said is risky, unreliable and poses major criminal threats.” Wilson called the criticism “a bunch of blather.” Neither the police department nor the city as a whole helped sponsor the Mobile Consulate, he said. Rather, the Consulate’s office contacted the city in search of a place to hold the event, and Wilson offered to show the center to office representatives.”They could have had it in any location in the valley as far as I was concerned,” he said. “We merely accommodated a request for some space for a program.”He said he didn’t know, and didn’t care, if the city waived the fee for using facility space. City parks and recreation director Leon Kuhn said the city didn’t charge for the use of the center.”It was a request that we help another governmental agency out,” he said.The Consulate office used a meeting room and some lobby space.Wilson said he doesn’t believe he or the Mexican government violated any laws in connection with Saturday’s event. He recognizes that the matricula consular card’s use is limited, but said many restricted forms of identification still can be helpful to police. The police department doesn’t have a position on the issue of illegal immigration, and it’s not involved in setting policies, he said. “That’s what we have all those elected officials for,” he said.Critics of the matricula consular card say it makes it easier for illegal immigrants to lived in the United States, by facilitating things such as obtaining bank loans.Dave Adamson, executive director of Mountain Family Health Centers, defended the city’s role in Saturday’s event. Mountain Family Health Centers has a Glenwood Springs clinic that aids low-income families, and offered health screenings at Saturday’s event. Adamson said immigrants are essential to the local tourism and construction industries. “Everybody here that’s in these businesses will be grateful to them because they benefit from them,” he said.Juan Robert Gonzalez, Mexico’s deputy consul in Denver, said he respects the opinions of those opposed to Saturday’s event. But he said they don’t understand the importance of matricula consular cards. He called the cards long-standing and “very secure” forms of identification for Mexicans. The cards make use of photos and fingerprints, and require an original birth certificate and other official ID to obtain. They can be used when seeking consular protection and advice, and are required for those who return to Mexico and want to drive there, he said.By mid-day Saturday, the Mobile Consulate had given out 300 applications for the cards, and another 100 for passports. The waiting line stretched through the center lobby and outside, and officials asked some people to come back later in the day.One of those turned away still appreciated that the Consulate came to Glenwood Springs and that the city provided space.”We’re really happy about it,” said Maria Saldana, of Gypsum, who runs a housekeeping business and has lived in the United States more than 20 years. She attended Saturday’s event with family members and said it’s hard to go to the Denver office to get a card or passport. Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.