Church opens doors to mobile Mexican consulate

By Anne Marie Gerhardt, Special Contributor…

AURORA, Ill.—Miguel Rivaz of Melrose Park appreciated a shorter drive to get his wife Maria a passport. The couple recently visited the mobile unit of the Mexican consulate held at Nueva Vida United Methodist Church in Aurora.

“This is a lot closer than the Chicago Mexican consulate, and there it takes three to four months to get an appointment,” says Mr. Rivaz. “This is helping a lot of people. We got the passport right away.”

Martin Lopez is a lay missioner leading the growing Nueva Vida congregation located in the former First UMC building at 60 S. Lincoln Ave. He received a call from the Mexican consulate a short time ago. The Consulate was looking for a large enough space to hold a mobile unit from Feb. 12-15.

“They called and came out to see the space,” says Mr. Lopez. “We were glad to open our church. The church is supposed to help the community and there’s a huge need here in the Aurora area. A lot of people can’t drive to the Chicago consulate.”

Nueva Vida UMC in Aurora, Ill., helped meet the needs of many immigrants in the community by offering space to a mobile unit of the Mexican consulate in Chicago. PHOTO COURTESY NORTHERN ILLINOIS CONFERENCE

The immense need is evident.

“We filled appointments for Aurora in 48 hours,” says Eduardo Arnal, consul general of Mexico. About 1,400 Mexican nationals made appointments to come to the mobile Mexican consulate in Aurora over the four days to receive matricula consulars (Mexican government identification cards) or passports. According to Mr. Arnal, the Chicago consulate is the second largest Mexican consulate in the world and receives hundreds of requests for appointments each day.

“We could hold many more mobile units but we just don’t have the human resources,” he says.

The need has increased dramatically during the last few months. In January, the Illinois Legislature approved temporary driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The new law, which will go into effect later this year, will require a driver’s license test and auto insurance.

“They can use the matricula to get a driver’s license,” said Mr. Arnal, who warned about lawyers who are already offering to help immigrants get one for a fee. “We provide free services such as giving out the rules of the road and vision screenings. No one needs to pay a lawyer for these services.”

Mr. Arnal welcomed the cooperation from Nueva Vida and added that there were many other opportunities like these for congregations and community partners.

The Rev. Michael Mann, the Northern Illinois Conference associate director of mission and advocacy, visited the mobile site and said Nueva Vida is offering an important outreach.

“This church is about giving new life, nueva vida, to those in Aurora. I’m thankful that they opened this space to be a witness to so many,” he said.

“The temporary driver’s license will let undocumented immigrants drive without the fear that they could unnecessarily be forced into deportation proceedings. They can drive to church, to work, and be a full part of the community.”

Many of the immigrants seeking assistance in Aurora were simply thankful the mobile unit was able to come to them and help them get on the road to new opportunities.

Ms. Gerhardt is director of communications for the Northern Illinois Conference.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
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