SAN ANTONIO - Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), delivered a blunt warning Tuesday for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
During a hearing with the House Appropriations Subcommittee, Homan said, "If you are in this country illegally and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried."
With the recent rise in immigration arrests, Mexican nationals have been given a new “emergency button.”
"Right now, we're in a complicated situation because of the new president but, for me, the emergency button is very important," San Antonian Norberto Sanchez said. "I'm gonna tell my family members to see how the app can help us."
It's not a new app, but it’s a new feature for Mexican nationals living in the United States.
The free app called “MiConsulmex” now has an emergency button where users can call or text to get an immediate response from a consulate officer.
"People are confused. What we need to provide our community is accurate information. We want them to get information from reliable sources," said Ambassador Reyna Torres, Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio.
The app is designed for Mexican nationals and it helps locate the nearest Mexican consulate. Torres says that they will also respond to cases of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.
"A relative that is missing, when someone is apprehended and they don't have access to an attorney or some legal help," said Torres, explaining when people might want to use the app. "Also when they're experiencing some abuse in the use of force, for example, of some authorities."
In all, 40 consulate officers are available around the clock to answer emergency calls or texts. The call center is located in Tuscon, Arizona.
The button launched last month. Torres says that the need for the consulate's immediate assistance grew more than 100 percent since this time last year.
"The people want to know about their legal cases, they want to receive information on their migratory status, if there's a resource available or not," she said.
Torres added that the Mexican Consulate also has a 90 percent success rate in locating missing relatives.
Through MiConsulmex, Mexican nationals will be able to obtain accurate information from a reliable source. Too many times, Torres says, immigrants fall victim to scams.
Immigration Attorney at DMCA, Lance Curtright, says that any time an undocumented immigrant is arrested, they have the right to notify the consulate. The MiConsulmex app just expedites that service.
"Think of it from our perspective: If you're a U.S. citizen and you're abroad and you got arrested, you'd want to be able to talk to your consul right away. That's all they're doing here, and that's an appropriate thing to do,” Curtright said. "I think the reason why they're having this app with an emergency button is indicate of S.B. 4, Trump's statements, the ramping of immigration enforcement. Those are the things that are worrisome. I think the Mexican Consulate's app is just an appropriate counter-response."
Curtright says that there is a process of law that occurs even after an immigration arrest. He says it still requires fairness and lawyers can be involved to help people navigate the process.
"My advice to people would be to get legal counsel as soon as they possibly can because the best defense to a possible immigration arrest is to get your papers and be legalized," he said.
The Mexican Consulate has three different resources available for the community.
They have a Center for Immigration and Assistance for Mexicans (CIAM) available 24/7, where users can obtain their immigration status and other consulate services. The number for CIAM is 1-855-463-6395.
The consulate also has the “Mexitel” service, where users can make appointments regarding passports, birth certificates, death certificates, and consular registration. The number for Mexitel is 1-877-639-4835. This includes offices in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
The third service of the Mexican Consulate is the emergency button through the MiConsulmex app.
"It's wonderful. The people will be able to communicate and be given information during the most difficult of times," San Antonian Jose Carlos Tamez said. "Hopefully, they can benefit from the app because our community really needs support from our consulate during these difficult times."
For more information, you can visit the official ConsulMex website here.
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