Last week saw federal raids of undocumented immigrants in cities across the country, and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise was pressured by activists to cease using the Hudson County jail as one of four detention centers used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in NJ. While Union City and Jersey City have issued executive orders declaring themselves “sanctuary cities,” restricting their cooperation with ICE, Bayonne has yet to make any such declaration.
This year’s political climate surrounding immigration makes getting proper documentation more important than ever to Bayonne’s substantial Mexican population. It’s also much more convenient than traveling to Manhattan, especially with a family.
Bayonne City Councilman-at-Large Juan Perez helped facilitate the consulate coming to Bayonne, along with Rubin Arana of the Bayonne Hispanic Association.
“It helps them become American citizens, registered voters, taxpayers. They want to become American citizens, get jobs,” said Perez, himself of Puerto-Rican descent. He calls Mexicans living in Bayonne his “constituents,” and said their population is increasing all over the county.
He said concerns among the immigrant and Mexican communities is palpable. “Believe it or not, their kids are more concerned for their parents because of what they heard from the President about deporting people,” said Perez. “They’re going to school, and they’re afraid.”
“We all worry what’s going to happen with people, not just Mexicans but every immigrant in this country.” – Jennifer Uranga
The consulate helps Mexican immigrants reduce the risk of running into trouble down the road. For instance, having no photo identification can result in deportation in some circumstances. So Mexican consular IDs and passports are more important now than ever.
Also available are health workers for routine medical checkups and an attorney hired by the consulate for legal counsel. The most common service is obtaining dual-citizenship, said Arlett Montes, who directs the consulate’s satellite office.
In today’s political environment, Mexicans are under greater threat of deportation; many first-generation Mexican-Americans fear for their parents.
Jose Mercado, 24, a Mexican-American born in Clifton, NJ, was at the consulate with his family seeking dual-citizenship for his mother. “I know I’m safe,” he said. “It’s my uncle and parents who were born [in Mexico],” who are not safe.
Mercado said there is discomfort in the Mexican community over rumors of increased raids and rhetoric from President Trump. “We’re scared more now,” he said.“No one knows what will happen.”
Rubin Uraga, a Mexican immigrant living in Bayonne, was at the consulate with his wife, Jennifer and baby son to renew his Mexican consular ID and receive legal counsel from the visiting attorney.
“He says, and I say the same thing, we all worry what’s going to happen with people, not just Mexicans but every immigrant in this country,” said Jennifer Uraga. “We’re worried about it and yeah, we’re afraid. We want our justice. We’re just here to work and live a normal life.”
A young woman who wished to remain anonymous, said she is at risk of being deported and is hoping the legal counsel could help. “When they send you back [to Mexico] it’s no fun. It’s not a nice place where you end up.”
The woman currently works as a house cleaner and said she makes enough money here to support herself. “There’s nothing [in Mexico]. You are lucky if you find work,” she said. “It’s much better here.”
Carlos Gerardo Izzo, Press Secretary for the Mexican Consulate, said that 50 Mexican consulates in the US are “being reinforced” with extended schedules and services.
“We are also providing information through our social media – a very effective way for our Consulate in New York to reach out to Mexicans in the tri-state area about what to do if they are being detained in a migratory operation.”
The Mexican Consulate has been busy, to say the least. Last week they were operating multiple satellite offices at the same time.
“Every week we’re in different places, often working simultaneously,” said Arlett Montes. “We have other teams working in Staten Island and Connecticut, three states.”
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.