Several hundred residents of Mexico, now making their homes in the Rim Country, came to Mountain Bible Church in Payson Saturday to meet with representatives of Arizona's Mexican consulate.
The consul staff worked to get paperwork under way to secure Mexican passports and "Matricular Consular" -- a formal identification issued by Mexico and accepted by the U.S. Treasury -- for those present.
Called a "mobile consulate," the service has been provided to communities throughout the Phoenix area and around the state for at least six years, according to Consul General Carlos Flores Vizcarra, who was also in Payson.
Vizcarra said he participates in all the mobile consulates. Because they are so well-received, there are at least two a month.
This was the first time the mobile consulate visited Payson.
On Saturday, some arrived as early as 5 a.m. to participate, even though doors did not open until 8 a.m.
"The philosophy (behind the mobile consulate) is to bring our services to the Mexican community where they live and because they are not able to come to our Phoenix office," Vizcarra said. "We expedite Mexican documents. We don't deal with anyone's migratory status. However, these formal documents will eventually assist our residents. As part of our services, we urge them to get rid of the false documents they may have. They can be prosecuted for the possession of fraudulent documents."
Additionally, with the new laws requiring passports for flights in and out of the United States, his country's residents need to have passports to make visits back to their families.
Providing the mobile consulate service is required by the secretary of state of Mexico.
Every consul office must hold at least one a month, but the demand for the service is so great in Arizona, Vizcarra's office holds two a month.
"It puts a lot of pressure on my colleagues, but the documents are needed," he said.
In addition to providing the passports and identification documents, Vizcarra is authorized to conduct marriages that will be recognized by the Mexican government. His office can also help residents with the arrangements to send their deceased back to Mexico for burial. The consul representatives help participants get their I-10 numbers, used instead of Social Security numbers, in order to pay taxes to the U.S. and state governments, Vizcarra said.
Representatives from Wells Fargo Bank were also at the event.
Vizcarra said he and his staff encourage their people to open formal bank accounts. "It is a safer, less costly way for them to send money back to their families in Mexico."