New Mexico’s agreement with its Mexican consulate is more recent than Illinois’s, dating to 2009. According to Arleen Lucero who manages the MOU for the state, the agreement has opened the lines of communication between government agencies on either side of the agreement. “It is beneficial to both agencies and is in the children’s best interest.” She finds that the agreement is especially helpful in allowing child welfare agencies to share information with the consulate that would otherwise be considered confidential. (Caseworkers obtain parental consent in order to allow the exchange of information.)
The MOU requires that basic information be provided to the consulate at the time a Mexican citizen child comes into care. (See Table 1 for details on the provisions contained in the agreement.) A form has been developed to facilitate consular notification and ensure that consistent information is provided in these cases. There is an additional form that caseworkers can use to request assistance from the consulate, for instance to obtain a child’s birth certificate or to request a home study be conducted on a potential placement resource in Mexico. Other common requests include assistance in providing notification to a secondary parent in Mexico (i.e. not the one from whom the child was removed) or to arrange for parental participation in hearings by telephone. The consulate has also been helpful in obtaining a Mexican passport for a child being placed with parents or relatives in Mexico. Occasionally the consulate can arrange for visits between parents and children at its border facility, though that is rare. More common is arranging for phone contact. Case workers can also request assistance for services beyond what is specifically outlined in the MOU.
New Mexico uses the agreement primarily in cases where the child is a Mexican citizen, but it can also be used for U.S. citizen children with a parent in Mexico. In addition, the agreement is used occasionally in the other direction, to repatriate U.S. citizen children to New Mexico after they have been placed in foster care by Mexican child welfare authorities.
Notifications to the Mexican consulate and/or requests for assistance occur “at least once a week.” The state agency is also sometimes contacted by the consulate if the parent has reached out to the consulate directly after their child(ren) come into the state’s care. In these cases, the consulate typically is seeking information on case status and contact information for the child’s caseworker.
Training workers to routinely ask questions to ascertain the child’s citizenship status early in the case and notify the consulate as necessary has required extensive effort. The Mexican consulate has helped with trainings for U.S. child welfare staff about their notification responsibilities and the types of assistance the consulate can provide. Parents may not be comfortable disclosing information on their immigration status, but the information is needed to assess the child’s eligibility for various services.
The Mexican consulate has also been helpful in identifying staff liaisons in other Central or South American nations’ consulates when needed. New Mexico has not established MOUs with other nations because the volume is too low to necessitate such agreements, but it does reach out to other consulates for assistance when needed and to notify them that one of their citizens has been taken into the state’s care.