SAN ANTONIO – On the job here two weeks, Mexican Consul General Reyna Torres Mendivil arrives at her new post at a pivotal and distressing time for many of the Mexican nationals whom she serves in the U.S.
The most recent example is Senate Bill 4, which would allow law enforcement agencies to ask about anyone’s legal status.
Opponents call it the Texas version of Arizona’s “show me your papers” legislation. But supporters have said it’s a matter of public safety.
It triggered a sit-in Monday at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, at which protestors urged him not to sign SB 4 when it reaches his desk as expected.
“That is something really sad,” said Torres. “It’s exactly a step in the wrong direction.”
Echoing San Antonio police Chief William McManus and others in law enforcement, the consul general said those here illegally will become more vulnerable targets because they won’t be willing to report a crime or testify.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, as an example, 17,833 people were deported last January, and 20,574 were deported in December.
“We are concerned because not all of them have the criminal records as it has been said,” Torres said. “We will be talking to the appropriate authorities and remain vigilant.”
The ICE spokeswoman said, being a federal agency, it enforces immigration law that "is an administrative violation."
So Mexican citizens can ask questions more freely, Torres said, the consulate offers them legal services, as well as information and advice on its website such as how to prepare an emergency plan if ICE shows up at their door.
The consul general said, even then, it’s true that many people are afraid of leaving their homes.
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“That’s part of the danger when you speak in such aggressive rhetoric that we’ve been hearing recently,” she said.
Torres said as a result, many are even fearful of taking the bus or driving to the Mexican Consulate in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
The consul general said, “So, now, our job is going to be to get out there and partner with churches and colleges and community centers to bring those services to the people where they are.”
She said given the current political climate “This is the time to unite the community, to empower the people here.”
Before becoming the consul general in San Antonio, Torres served as Mexico’s general director for the Protection of Mexicans Abroad and the the Mexican consul in Fresno, California, as well as other posts within the Mexican government. She graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, before earning a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and was a resident fellow at Harvard University.