Rising Tensions Between National and Local Immigration and Citizenship Policy: Matrículas Consulares, Local Membership and Documenting the Undocumented (Working Paper #140)

Monica W. Varsanyi, Arizona State University

Abstract: The matrículas consulares are identity cards issued by the Mexican government to its nationals living abroad. Since 9/11, businesses, local, and state governments in the US have started accepting them as a valid form of identification for undocumented immigrants living in their communities, who otherwise do not have any form of acceptable identification. In this article, I first outline the history and context of federal jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization policy in the United States, and then expand upon the case study of the consular ID cards. I argue that the increasing acceptance of the matrículas consulares provides an example of how, in confronting the local impacts of undocumented migration, communities are formulating both “foreign policy” (as immigration policy is considered as foreign policy in the United States), as well as “citizenship policy,” at the local scale. I conclude by taking the analysis one step further and arguing that this partial rescaling of membership policy enables the nation-state to better manage what political theorist, James Hollifield, calls the “liberal paradox,” or the growing tension between neoliberal economic openness and the continued necessity of national political closure.

Working Paper #140 »