Plans to help Mexican citizens process and update their paperwork were almost derailed this weekend after several people threatened to stage a protest.
Organizers quietly relocated the event from the announced location at the Payson Senior Center on Main Street to Mountain Bible Church, where the mobile Mexican Consulate met with 35 people by appointment Saturday, updating passports and travel paperwork.
No protesters showed up and the event was a success, said Camille Levee, executive director of Time Out Inc., who helped organize the event.
She said it appears several people were misinformed about the purpose of the event.
“People were understanding that this was providing some sort of service to illegals,” she said.
On Friday, Senior Center representative Joanna Conlin and Payson Police Chief Don Engler both reportedly received calls and e-mails from concerned citizens about the event.
“It threw us for a loop,” Levee said.
Worried people would picket the Senior Center, organizers moved the event to a quieter location, she said. Those who had an appointment were notified, but the new location was kept quiet.
For several hours, staff from the consulate office processed passports and identification cards, which are issued to Mexicans living outside the country. They have no bearing on immigration status.
Time Out had asked the consulate office to visit Payson after a number of clients expressed interest in the service here because they couldn’t get to the Valley to update their paperwork.
“We arranged this because we have quite a large Hispanic population that participates in community outreach programs,” she said. “Our bilingual liaisons thought it would be great.”
After three months of planning, organizers thought they had everything sorted.
The reaction startled them.
“I am not sure what people thought it was, but they weren’t listening to what it really was,” Levee said.
Despite the setback, Levee said they would continue to help clients get the information they need to “lead a safe and self-efficient life.”
“We just might not be as vocal about it in the future.”
Levee thanked Mountain Bible for stepping up and helping out.
“Maybe all of us need to take a lesson from the faith community.”