BOISE – Over the objections of an Idaho congressman, the U.S. State Department has given the go-ahead for construction of a Mexican consulate in Boise, a spokesman said.
The Mexican government is looking for a site and hasn’t determined how large the staff will be, Ricardo Alday, a Washington, D.C., spokesman for the Mexican Embassy told the Idaho Statesman in a story published Saturday.
Rep. Bill Sali, R-Idaho, last week asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to delay approval for the Boise location until the U.S. government had addressed “the moral and constitutional duty to take into consideration how foreign consulates affect our fellow citizens here in our own country.”
The newspaper reported that Gov. Butch Otter’s office would not say whether he discussed plans for an Idaho consulate during his recent trade mission to Mexico.
Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the subject wasn’t on the itinerary, but the governor has said a consulate would help Idaho increase trade with Mexico and would benefit both governments.
Sali raised concerns that “consular cards” issued by the Mexican government at consulates in the U.S. could be used by illegal immigrants for identification to rent housing or open bank accounts.
The consulate, which requires State Department approval, would become the Mexican government’s 49th in the United States. The State Department also approved the Mexican government’s plans to open a consulate in Anchorage, Alaska, Alday said.
Last week President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon reopened a consulate in New Orleans that closed in 2002, causing an estimated 30,000 Mexican citizens in southeast Louisiana to go to Houston for diplomatic services.
Currently, Mexican citizens in Idaho must travel to Salt Lake City or Seattle, the closest Mexican consulates. Once open, the Mexican consulate in Boise will be the first full consular office in Idaho.
Boise is home to honorary consular officials from France and other countries.
Typically, a consulate’s role is to protect citizens abroad, provide government services, strengthen relations between countries, and promote cultural and business ties.
Often, the government chooses places where government or business leaders have requested a consulate or where there is a significant need in the population, Alday said.
Boise officials said Friday they had not received an application for a Mexican consulate.