Mexico Launches ID Cards for Children, Carrying Fingerprint And Iris Scan

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Kathy Fernandez Davalos (holding a giant version of the I.D. card) and her second-grade classmates at Miguel Hidalgo Elementary in Tijuana marked the launch of Mexico’s new identification document program for minors Monday.

TIJUANA — Tijuana was the setting Monday for the launch of an identity card program aimed at minors across Mexico, a move that authorities said would reduce paperwork as well as protect against child trafficking, prostitution and other forms of abuse.

As hundreds of uniformed students from Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School watched, sixth-grader Leslie Carolina García became the first person in Mexico to register for the card.

Mexico’s interior minister, José Francisco Blake Mora, called it a “historic day” for Mexico. “This is not an option for authorities or for the government,” he said. “It is a constitutional obligation to offer this identification card.”

The card is aimed at minors from ages 4 to 17, and by the end of 2012, Mexico’s federal government is hoping that as many as 25.7 million children will be signed up.

With the document, they won’t need to present a birth certificate when registering for school, medical appointments or to receive other public services, Blake said. Authorities said the cards also will certify a child’s identity, critical in cases of children who are missing or forced into prostitution.

Among the dignitaries offering their approval of the document were Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante, and Tijuana Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñóz.

Though neither the United States nor Canada has national identification cards, countries across Latin America and Europe have used them for years. In Mexico, birth certificates and voter registration cards are the most commonly used identification documents.

Registering minors for the card is only the first phase. The plan is to eventually extend identification cards to adults as well. A third phase also would establish a registry for all foreigners residing in Mexico.

“If you go to a bus station, and somebody asks you for an I.D., you show a birth certificate and that’s enough,” said René Zenteno, Mexico’s undersecretary for population, migration and religious affairs. “But you don’t know if that birth certificate belongs to that person.”

Users of the document submit to a photograph, a fingerprint and an iris scan. The card names not only the child, but also his or her parents. Baja California is one of six states across Mexico that will pioneer the program.

Critics of the card have said that they will carry too much information, and be susceptible to abuse. Blake offered assurances that the registry will be secure. The information, he said, “will be protected as established in the rules and constitution of our country.”

By Sandra Dibble
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.

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