A bank account. Power of attorney. Dual citizenship.
These are some of the strategies the Consulate of Mexico in Dallas recommends for undocumented immigrants to protect their assets in case they’re deported.
Héctor Martínez and his family recently scheduled an appointment to apply for dual citizenship for their four children. Martínez, from San Luis Potosí, says he could be deported back to Mexico anytime. In that case, he expects that his wife and U.S. citizen children would join him and use the benefits granted by Mexican citizenship.
“I don’t plan to remain my whole life here,” Martínez said as three of his children played with each other in the Consulate waiting room. “If I have to leave someday, I want to take them with me. I don’t want to be away from them.”
Mexican officials are encouraging Mexican citizens without documentation to be prepared for the disruption of their lives that can come with the deportation of even one family member. Their recommendations include having Mexicans living in North Texas apply for passports and Mexican voting cards in case they need to ease their way back into Mexican society.
From January 1st through August 31st, the Consulate processed 2,699 dual citizenship applications, according to spokesman Rubén Ovando. The number of Mexicans who are in this process has been growing, from 977 in 2016 to 2,474 in 2017.
When U.S.-born children of Mexican immigrants want to apply for Mexican citizenship, the process is expedited in case their parents have to return home. Birth certificates, IDs and passports, as well as access to Mexico’s health care system, are made easier with dual citizenship, officials said. It also makes it easier to enroll children in school.
Andrés Galván, communities consul, recommends Mexican parents verify whether their children are eligible for dual citizenship, a procedure allowed by both the U.S. and Mexico.
“By registering their children as Mexican citizens, they won’t lose U.S. citizenship,” Galván said. “If you’re planning on returning to Mexico, do it with full benefits. Enter Mexico as a Mexican citizen, not as a foreigner, so you can access the services offered by the Mexican government, including health care, education and needs-based family support.”
Open a bank account
Galván also recommends that all Mexican nationals living in North Texas open an account with an American bank. The consular official said many Mexicans don’t trust financial institutions, opting instead to stash their cash. But he said this can be problematic if apprehended by immigration and customs enforcement.
“With an ATM card, you can take it along and withdraw your money anywhere in the world,” he said. “If you are into banking services, you can access you bank account online and send money to a family member. Or, if you have [another] bank account, you can transfer your money.”
Francisco Merino, consul of the Mexican Consulate’s protection department in Dallas, also recommends opening a bank account as a precautionary measure in case a family member is detained. He suggests keeping an emergency plan in a box or a suitcase, and asking the bank for a duplicate debit card that can be secured there, too.
“If the father is detained, and the mother has an extra debit card, she can keep using the family’s funds so they aren’t left unprotected,” Merino said.
“Pre-emptive protection is more effective than protection during a critical situation,” Merino said. “We at the Consulate offer some tips on how to create a plan. One of them is: If you have children under 18, have their documents ready.”
Have a power of attorney on hand
Eloy Gardea is an attorney with the Texas-based nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a group providing education and legal services to immigrants. He said bank accounts, properties and vehicles in Texas can be transferred with a power of attorney, which people can get through an attorney.
Gardea also recommends preparing a document in advance, indicating who parents would like to have custody of their children if both parents are detained. And he noted that immigrants who have been victims of human trafficking or some other crimes can be eligible for legal protections shielding them from deportation.
“You want to talk to a lawyer about what kind of protection you can get. And if there isn’t much left to do, you can start preparing,” Gardea said.
(Author Javier Giribet associate with Dallas News and article appears from Dallas News)