By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The recent arrest and detention of Guatemalan workers at the Swift meatpacking plant in Cactus highlights the need for legal advice and advocacy, says Margarita Alvarez, president of Voces Unidas por los Inmigrantes, a local nonprofit. Many of the workers arrested in Cactus by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents late last year remain in county jail.
"There isn't pressure from our country," Alvarez says. "They'll be prisoners for months. We want a consulate here so the government can recognize people's problems and be involved in helping them—not just so they can issue passports and IDs, but to lobby for our rights."
Villacorta says that if there were a consulate here, or at least more frequent visits by the mobile one, it would be easier for people to ensure that children born in the U.S. have dual citizenship, something he recommends in case undocumented parents are ordered deported and risk being separated from their children. Numerous Guatemalan families have been separated in the wake of the Swift raids.
Marta Beatriz Altolaguirre, a vice chancellor at the foreign ministry in Guatemala City, said via e-mail that while there are plans to open additional consulates in Texas, the only solid plans at this point are for a consulate in McAllen. She didn't say when it was scheduled to open, and phone calls to the consulate in Houston and to the Guatemalan ambassador were not returned.
Mutzus hopes a consulate opens in North Texas at some point, but she says she wouldn't be surprised if it takes a long time. Having to travel to Houston isn't ideal, but things could be much worse. "I'm grateful to this country," she says. "It's given me a lot, and I thank God for it."