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Border Security: Consular Identification Cards Accepted within United States, but Consistent Federal Guidance Needed

GAO-04-881 Published: Aug 24, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2004.
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Several state and local government agencies and financial institutions accept consular identification (CID) cards, which are issued by foreign governments to their citizens living abroad. Mexico issued more than 2.2 million CID cards in 2002-2003 and Guatemala issued approximately 89,000 from mid-2002 to 2003. Critics of CID cards say their acceptance facilitates the unlawful stay within the United States of undocumented aliens and may provide opportunities for terrorists to remain undetected in this country. GAO examined (1) the purpose of a CID card and how Mexican and Guatemalan CID cards are being used in the United States, (2) steps Mexico and Guatemala have taken to verify the identities of CID card applicants and incorporate security features in CID cards now used in the United States, and (3) the positions and policies of federal agencies regarding CID cards.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Homeland Security Council The Homeland Security Council should direct its task force, in consultation with key federal agencies, to complete its efforts to develop policies and implement consistent guidance that would reconcile potential conflicts among federal agencies and enable state and local governments, financial institutions, and others to assess the authenticity of CID cards issued by foreign governments.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Homeland Security Council of the Executive Office of the President did not comment on this recommendation, saying that such would be contrary to their policy. The Council's Task Force has not issued guidance to federal, state or local government agencies regarding consular cards.

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Border securityForeign governmentsHomeland securityIdentification cardsIdentity verificationImmigration enforcementTerroristsImmigrationIntergovernmental relationsInternational relations