EAST CHICAGO | The city of East Chicago's Mayor Anthony Copeland was honored to have the Mexican Consul General Eduardo Arnal visit his office Aug. 31.
After introductions of staff the consul general began to illustrate many of Mexico's strengths in the global economy and share his thoughts about issues that concern his country and how they relate to ours. One such issue was immigration reform. A topic of much debate in our country.
"We need our citizens back," Arnal said. "Many of our talented entrepreneurs and skilled workers leave our country and come here to build a more profitable life for their families. Mexico has new incentives in place for citizens who want to come back and become a part of Mexico's working population. They just need to learn that these incentives are in place."
As the meeting progressed, both Copeland and Arnal found themselves talking about common problems that plague both countries and what needs to be done to face these challenges.
"Many people are concerned over the recent news regarding drugs in Mexico," Arnal said. "This is one of our country's top concerns and we are tackling this issue hands on. It affects both our countries. Many people are worried Mexico is unsafe, but that is untrue. There are many parts of Mexico where life is normal and peaceful."
With more than 52 percent of East Chicago's population Hispanic you can see why there are many issues that hit close to home here in our city. Arnal spoke about several of these issues to Copeland.
"There are many binational families with parents born in Mexico and children born in the U.S. or siblings born in Mexico and other siblings born here," Arnal said. "It is devastating to our families when they are torn apart. There needs to be some immigration reform for these types of situations."
Although children can receive an education up to high school level, many times these children wish to continue their education only to find out they can not. That is why the DREAM Act was created. The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation that can solve this hemorrhaging injustice in our society. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a six-year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
Other issues included the difficulty many noncitizens have registering a car in Indiana. Currently our state does not see the "Matricula" identification card as a valid form of ID in order to grant people permission to register a car or obtain a driver's license. Many residents turn to obtaining one in Illinois because they do accept the "Matricula" as a valid form of ID. The Matrícula Consular de Alta Seguridad (Consular Identification Card) is an identification card issued by the government of Mexico through its consulate offices to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico. The issuing of the card has no bearing on immigration status in the foreign country they are residing in. The purpose of the card is to demonstrate that the bearer is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico. It includes a government of Mexico issued ID number and bears a photograph and address in the United States of the Mexican national to whom it is issued.
"Many of these issues do have an impact on our community," Copeland said. "I grew up here my whole life, with many races, Hispanic, white, black all mixed together in one community and that is what makes East Chicago so diverse, so special."
One concern Copeland expressed was that East Chicago does enforce the reciprocity law and unfortunately there are many Illinois plates in and around our city. Many of these issues have to be addressed at a state level. Only then can Indiana begin to get a better handle on who is living and working in our communities.
"At the end of the day, I can say it was an honor listening and sharing thoughts, visions and concerns for Hispanics in East Chicago. We all live and work to better our situations. ... We all have families that rely on us. ... We are all in this together," Copeland said.
The meeting concluded with an invitation to the Consul office in Chicago.