After a year of pandemic, routine services in consular offices such as the renewal of passports and notarial acts have not been standardized for thousands of Latin American immigrants residing in the Big Apple. After months of closure of consulates and embassies, now the rules of social distancing and virtual dating, stuck many processes in a kind of “bottleneck” that is described by many as a “labyrinth” which can take months.
Mexicans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians and Colombians, the largest Hispanic communities in New York City, share the same “agony” on a daily basis at the doors of their respective diplomatic headquarters: appointments to process or renew the passport that in some cases could be scheduled on a date that involves several months, delays in the delivery of the document, once the process is done. And, in addition, a deficient telephone attention.
The Ecuadorian Juliana Vera, 52, account that went to the consular headquarters of his country located in Long Island City, in Queens, to see if he could personally solve something that is virtually disturbing to him: April 2022 is the closest date that the system gives you for the renewal of the only valid identification to travel.
“Nobody answers the phone. It is unusual that I cannot even now have the plan to visit my family next Christmas. I understand that everyone is complicated by COVID-19, but I believe that a way must be devised to expedite it. In my case it is for a trip. But for many of my people are life and death. And this complicates even sensitive migration issues, ”said the immigrant.
Juliana’s comment is just one of the reactions that are exposed daily through the Facebook page of the South American country, complaints that converge on the same idea: obtain the passport as it is designed by the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, at the headquarters consular of Manhattan y Queens, I know it can take up to twelve months.
“There is still a pandemic”
Amid the avalanche of criticism, Carlos Martinez, Consul General of Ecuador in New York said to The newspaper that “unfortunately” there is a concrete fact that shows a slowness in all the processes, but it must be understood under the context that “there is still a pandemic”.
“We have many limitations in the capacity of our offices. We cannot receive the same number of Ecuadorians that we normally receive. Even more when the demand for passports is very high. And our capacity is much smaller ”, he clarified.
Martínez stressed that he is aware that there is a clear problem of slowness that profoundly affects the lives of his countrymen, but that in recent weeks they have taken some measures to streamline processes, especially for those who fall within the spectrum of an emergency.
“We started a plan two weeks ago to reschedule appointments. In that period of time we have been able to advance at least 800 requests. Daily we have been able to process between 25 and 30 passports for very special situations, as is the case of the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), because they are faced with having to renew their work permits ”, he assured.
More working hours
The Ecuadorian consular representative estimates that with the plan of extended hours, until 7 at night, implemented in its offices in New York City, in the medium term should lower the pressure generated by pandemic biosafety regulations.
Regarding the recurring complaints of the low level of response to the telephone service numbers, he emphasized that the volume of calls is huge, for this reason he exhorts Ecuadorians in New York who seek information for specific procedures, which they need in the Web page from that consulate the lines to call according to each procedure.
“We are sorry for the waiting times. In many cases our citizens call the conventional numbers of our headquarters. Most of our officials are personally serving other Ecuadorians. In this case, they must verify that call the specific lines that we have published ”, clarified Martínez.
Mexicans also complain
To Mexican student Pamela Rodríguez A personal situation arose this week that forced her to fly to her country immediately, but when she entered the appointment allocation system to obtain her identification “book”, she placed the last week of May as the closest availability.
Rodríguez approached the Mexican Consulate in manhattan and left headquarters with good news. “I was able to solve because it was an emergency. Honestly the service was very good, but a must have patience and time”, He said.
The experience of Poblano ‘José’, a 45-year-old construction worker and resided in Brooklyn, was totally opposite, since he assures that has a month trying to get a date to get the passport, but without any advance.
“This opening an email and looking for an appointment on the computer is not easy for everyone. And if you come here to the consulate and have not made any virtual progress, the attention is not the best. I waited 20 years to be able to regularize my situation in this country. Now what blocks me to return to my townThey are the complicated procedures in my own country ”, said the immigrant who declined to identify himself.
The Mexican Consulate has shared a series of pedagogical videos on its web platform to show in detail how to access the Mexitel platform, an electronic appointment system. Also to avoid the concentration of their nationals in their offices, they devised the plan Consulates on Wheels which brings consular services to the populations with the highest concentration of Mexicans in the tri-state area.
The services provided are issuance of passports, consular plates, voting credentials (INE) and birth registration mainly. Currently, more than sixty different locations are visited including various New York counties outside of Manhattan.
Faced with complaints of certain ineffectiveness in the advancement of procedures, the Consul General of Mexico in New York, Jorge Islas, through several live broadcasts from Facebook, stated that he has always insisted and demanded of his entire team to “empathic treatment ”With all his compatriots.
“It is more I invite all countrymen and women that the day that you like, when you have an element of bad service or mistreatment in our facilities write me directly to my email [email protected] and if we find clear elements, they will act with all the forcefulness of the case ”, he assured.
Colombians in the waiting line
This week the concentration of people in front of Consulate of Colombia in New York it was not interrupted even by bad weather. Hundreds of New Granada waits every day in the Manhattan’s 46th Street and Sixth Avenue. Not always patiently.
The immigrant Elizabeth Cifuentes He narrates that a month ago he began the procedure for a consular registration and as time passed, his Colombian documents expired. That meant a sequence of problems.
“Even if you make appointments, there are always problems, because the system is very congested. And everything is very slow. You understand that it is because of the pandemic, but I think there must be other ways of doing things. You lose medical appointments and weeks waiting to solve something. Of course, the staff here are very friendly “he explained.
A young man from Bucaramanga, Miguel Cáceres, He reported that he was trying to change his appointment to New Jersey where the process may be a bit faster to renew his passport, because he needs to travel on an emergency basis. However, it has achieved thousands of obstacles to achieve it.
“The other point is that I dare to assure that this is the consulate with the most days off and holidays. When there was snowfall closed in total for four daysThat is understood, but they did not have the possibility to facilitate anything. The answer is always: “What a pity! Everything is very slow due to the pandemic, ”said the Colombian.
Susana Berenguer, Consul of Colombia in New York, has highlighted since last November on their social networks that it is “a new way of serving the public, in the midst of the pandemic, we are all learning.”
Through the website nuevayork.consuladogov.co They have added new resources such as tutorial videos, online chat system, special telephone services and constant updates through digital media, so that the Colombian community can “navigate” in the new way of doing your paperwork.
It is strange not to see in the surroundings of the Consulate of the Dominican Republic, in in the heart of Manhattan, in Times Square, long lines of islanders waiting to carry out procedures, which in the opinion of many consulted, have become a “disaster” due to the long hours of waiting, even after making an appointment.
Many times tempers heat up and become angry complaints to officials.
This Friday, Marlyn Espinal He indicated that when he requested an appointment three weeks ago to renew his identity document, the system did not specify which documents he required.
“I arrive here at 9 in the morning and at 11 I find out that I should have brought my birth certificate and identity card. Here every day there are old people waiting in this cold out for hours, only to suddenly return home with nothing. This service has to be improved, ”said Espinal.
The Quisqueyana del Cibao, Margarita Alonso, He assured that the telephone service numbers to answer questions “are for decoration.”
“They never respond. Here one spend hours waiting in the street with this weather. And suddenly when you go up to the office for a piece of paper that nobody told you to bring, they send you back, ”Alonso shared.
A official of that consulate, who preferred to keep his name in reserve, stressed that a “superhuman” effort is being made, for attending the procedures of the largest Hispanic community in New York, describing that “month by month” more facilities are added so that people are more comfortable.
“Unfortunately, sometimes we have a hard time following the rules, even though they are clear. Nobody can say that we do not try to solve the problems of every Dominican. The dating system sometimes gets congested. We live in a new world that is facing a health crisis, “said the source.
Consulates in Mexico and Ecuador promote vaccines
Mexicans and Ecuadorians, two of the immigrant communities in the Big Apple most affected by COVID-19 have virtual resources, through the digital platforms of their respective consulates, to be oriented in how to get vaccinated safely.
- The consul general of Mexico in NY, Jorge Islas reported that they promote that all their citizens, regardless of their immigration status, can register and clarify their doubts about how to inoculate, by phone 212-2176440 or by writing to the email [email protected]
- The Ecuadorian Consulate in NY also started the campaign “Ecuadorian vaccinate!” offered through its page facebook/cecunuevayork videos and forums to facilitate immunization to this community.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.