A reader who is an occasional correspondent has posed an interesting comment and question, which read in pertinent part:

  • It is both legal and commonplace for Mexican consulates in border areas like El Paso and San Diego to have ongoing contracts with local U.S. law firms to assist Mexican nationals who encounter "legal problems." Question is, since it is legal, what about other consulates in the interior, in Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Denver? How can we find out? It might be legal but politically dubious if foreign governments are shown to be assisting illegal aliens in circumventing U.S. immigration law through contracts with American law firms.

Taking the first portion of the reader's comment/inquiry, the answer is that the number and location of consulates of any country depends on negotiation between the foreign country and the host nation. Such negotiations are handled by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), and are often on the basis of reciprocity: "If you get an embassy and two consulates here, here, and here, then I want an embassy and two consulates there, there, and there."

But there may be reasons why reciprocity is deemed by DOS not to be in the interests of the United States, or is a matter with which DOS is unconcerned because not maintaining reciprocity is a way of exhibiting the amicable relations that exist between the two nations.

That seems to be the case with Mexico. My brief examination of the matter shows that the United States maintains an embassy, 10 consulates-general, and nine consular agents in Mexico — a total of 20 diplomatic outposts in Mexico. Conversely, however, Mexico maintains an embassy and 44 consulates-general and consulates in the United States —a total of 45 diplomatic outposts (excluding its UN mission).

While there is a great deal of latitude in how diplomatic missions conduct their business, they are nonetheless expected to abide by laws of the host country, and can be shuttered if determined by U.S. officials to have exceeded their boundaries as defined by international law. For instance, in one of its final acts the Obama administration directed the closing of Russian diplomatic compounds on the Eastern Shore of Maryland because they were suspected of engaging in sophisticated espionage activities.

With regard to the correspondent's inquiry about Mexico: I can't speak to the issue of contracts with American law firms aimed toward directly circumventing U.S. immigration law, at least in the context of violating the criminal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). But it is clear that Mexico's diplomatic corps, as well as many of its political leaders, certainly toe right up to the line of propriety — and perhaps over it — by intervening in the internal affairs of the United States, at least where immigration law is concerned.

One key example is the "matricula consular", a form of identity document issued by Mexico only to aliens illegally residing in the United States as a means of attempting to aid them in their search for unlawful employment or bank accounts, procuring driver's licenses, or obtaining a host of other, similar services or benefits.

Another is the frequent appearance of Mexican diplomats and leaders in U.S. cities, where they overtly:

  • Help boost sanctuary policies (even going so far as to file an amicus brief in a U.S. court to attempt to prevent Texas from enacting an anti-sanctuary law);
  • Decry U.S. immigration enforcement policies; and even
  • Refuse to engage in meaningful domestic immigration policies, where it involves interdicting third-country nationals using Mexico as a door mat to cross into the United States.

So what can be done?

Maybe the Department of State needs to engage in a serious bilateral discussion with Mexico over the appropriate limits of conduct and activities undertaken by its diplomatic missions. If that doesn't work, then perhaps our own diplomats should rethink the desirability of reciprocity, and begin the process of ordering a shutdown of Mexican consular missions that are above and beyond the number of U.S. facilities that now exist in Mexico. After all, the notion of amicable relations implies operating with a respect for all the laws of the host country.

Harsh? Depends on your point of view. But why permit Mexico to treat sovereign U.S. territory as if we are merely the 32nd Mexican state?

Dan Cadman writes for the Center for Immigration Studies.

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