The Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia has traditionally been the place to go for Mexican immigrants to receive assistance with things like securing passports, birth certificates, visas, and how to send money to loved ones in Mexico.
But since President Donald Trump announced his plans to enforce new deportation regulations more aggressively last month, the consulate has been flooded with twice the number of phone calls it usually gets from immigrants who are fearful about their future.
Alicia Kerber-Palma, head counsel of the Philadelphia consulate, says there is a lot of fear among immigrants because they just don’t know what to expect under the Trump administration.
“They are afraid of what is going to happen with them, with their house, with their families, with their car, with their jobs, with everything, “ she said.
In response to their concerns, the Mexican government has directed each of the 50 consulates in the United States to open legal defense centers. The Philadelphia Consulate’s center has been open since March 2 and is located within its Bourse building offices in Center City.
The defense center works in tandem with human rights and immigrant clinics and offers screenings to help residents learn their citizenship status. It will also provide pro bono attorneys, who can outline what steps undocumented residents can take to become citizens.
Kerber-Palma also advises residents to come up with an alternative plan should they experience a worst-case scenario, which could include deportation.
"Please have a power of attorney so you should know to whom you should leave your kids in case you are deported. That’ sad to hear, but it’s important,” she said. “If you don’t have this plan B, and you get deported where are your kids going to finish? Are they going to a foster house or with another family that they don’t know? So please have this plan B."
The consulate is offering extended hours to assist the immigrant community. The Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia serves about 200,000 immigrants in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.