Mexico opens immigrant defense centers at its US consulates

By Marilia Brocchetto CNN

(CNN) -- Mexico on Saturday formally began operating centers for the defense of Mexican immigrants in its 50 consulates and embassies in the United States.

The centers "are specifically designed to provide consular assistance as well as legal representation to all Mexican migrants who require support in America," the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "This significant progress in terms of protection answers to the instruction of the president of the republic to strengthen support for our nationals in that country."

Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray was at the consulate in New York for the formal announcement. Earlier this week he said 170 million pesos ($54 million) had been allocated for the services and 320 temporary workers would be hired.

The ministry's statement adds that "through these (centers), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides an exclusive space for Mexicans in need of consular assistance to receive information, guidance and direct legal advice, with the support of a strong network of local allies, including lawyers and organizations specialized in the defense of the rights of the migrants."

The openings, requested by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, come after action by US President Donald Trump establishing tougher deportation standards.

In January, Nieto said his country would guarantee immigrants in the United States had access to protection.

"The Mexican offices in the United States will turn into defenders of the rights of Mexican immigrants," he said in a video posted on the President's website.

Mexican consulates and embassies will also start to produce birth certificates for Mexican immigrants who don't have one.

The birth certificates help to "guarantee the right to identity that our nationals have, regardless of where they are, and translates into important benefits, especially for those in a vulnerable situation," the Foreign Ministry said.

"With the birth certificate, Mexicans benefitting from this program will be able to request basic documents such as passports and consular registrations, enjoy all the rights and obligations conferred by Mexican nationality, and continue to participate in the civic life of our country," it said.

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