Our office has had the pleasure to partner with the Mexican Consulate of Philadelphia for nearly a decade. During our time as attorneys in the Consulate’s PALE program, we have helped many Mexican nationals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware with their immigration issues. We have also had the opportunity to meet and work with many wonderful Mexican diplomats. We recently had the pleasure to interview one of our diplomatic partners, Sebastián Galvan Duque Covarrubias, who serves as the Consul for Protection and Legal Affairs at the Consulate. We asked him a series of questions about his work at the Consulate, including why he chose a life in the diplomatic service, what types of services his department provides, and how Mexican citizens living in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware can access these Consular services.
Thank you for agreeing to speak with us Sebastián. Why did you decide to become a Diplomat?
Being a diplomat has always been a dream since I was a kid. I was always interested in the world, its cultures, peoples, histories. When I was 8 years old I had the opportunity to visit the United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland (an aunt was living there). I was impressed with the building, its history and the work that was done there and since that moment I wanted to do what they did. Growing up I learned about the foreign service and I set myself a goal to be a career diplomat, which I was able to do in 2019.
What skills do you think are helpful as a diplomat?
Even though there might not be a set list of skills, I do believe that a diplomat must have vocation of service, must be able to adapt to the different circumstances he or she might face and also be interested in always learning new things and keeping up to date with what is going on in their country and around the world.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish and English fluently and can also speak French.
How many Consular posts have you worked in during your career? Can you share any interesting stories from any of those posts?
Even though Philadelphia is my first post as a career diplomat (member of the Mexican Foreign Service), I have worked at our consulates in Boise, Idaho (2009-2013) and Tucson, Arizona (2013-2018).
An interesting fact about Idaho is that our Mexican community has been living there for more than 160 years. The first ones to arrive were entrepreneurs who set up important and successful businesses, like Jesus Urquides – who was a leader in the transportation industry at the time. Today, the Mexican community is found throughout the state, from professionals in leading companies, such as Hewlett Packard and Micron, to entrepreneurs, to the potato and onion fields where they are vital to the agricultural industry and the state´s economy.
Tucson, on the other hand, was one of the northernmost posts of New Spain. Throughout these centuries, there has always been a strong connection between the communities in Tucson and Mexico, particularly Sonora. In terms of tourism, for example, Mexican tourists spend around $1 billion USD each year in Tucson. The strong relationships between the communities can also be seen in the unique gastronomy that the city offers (El Charro Café, in Tucson, is the oldest family run Mexican restaurant in the U.S) and in December 2015, Tucson became the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy designated in the United States.
Can you provide an overview of the services offered by the Mexican Consulate in the United States to protect Mexican immigrants?
The Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia represents Mexico and advocates for the Mexican community in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey. We are part of the largest consular network that one country has in another.
We serve our Mexican nationals (and work towards their empowerment and protection) primarily through three pillars:
– Documentation: Issuance of passports, consular id´s and voting ID cards (to vote in Mexico). Registry of births of those born outside of Mexico from Mexican parents and provide official powers of attorney.
– Community Affairs: Promote empowerment of our community through programs focused on health (Ventanilla de Salud), financial education (Ventanilla de Asesoría Financiera); academic opportunities (Ventanilla de Oportunidades Educativas).
– Protection: Assistance of Mexican nationals that are in any vulnerable or emergency situation. Promote the rights and dignity of the Mexican community.
What kind of legal assistance does the Protection Department offer to Mexican immigrants?
One of the biggest challenges that the Mexican community face is the lack of knowledge or understanding of the U.S. legal system. This makes them particularly vulnerable, as they can be victims of fraud or misinformation, which can affect their situation as well as their families.
For this, the Government of Mexico, through its consular network, has established the Legal Assistance Program for Mexicans Abroad (PALE), through which the Consulate collaborates with different organizations and law firms, such as Solow, Hartnett & Galvan, to provide legal consultation and representation to Mexican nationals in different areas:
In terms of consular protection, what support can Mexican immigrants expect from the consulate?
We can assist Mexican nationals in a wide variety of issues: from helping families that wish to repatriate to Mexico a loved one who has passed away to helping those hospitalized seek care and treatment in their hometowns.
If a person has any encounter with local, state and federal authorities, we promote and protect their rights, attend to their immediate needs, (if needed) recommend attorneys and contact family members.
We also promote and advocate for the rights of workers and work with different partners and allies to help those who have been victims of wage theft, discrimination, require workers compensation, among other issues.
We help victims of domestic violence, as well as victims of labor and sexual trafficking, not only with resources that the Consulate can provide, but also with contacts with authorities and in seeking any possible legal remedy that can help them.
In a nutshell, we seek to be a first resource for Mexican nationals that are facing any problem.
How does the consulate collaborate with local authorities and organizations to enhance the protection of Mexican immigrants?
We work in different ways, from signed partnerships, like the PALE program or the memorandums of understanding and arrangements signed with federal agencies like the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to strong alliances with different organizations with which we all pursue the same goal: to help our community.
What resources are available to Mexican immigrants who are victims of crime or exploitation in the United States?
There are many resources that victims of crime or exploitation have, regardless of their immigration status. Through different government funded programs, victims can have access to financial resources, therapy, and support to follow up on any police report, among many others.
Depending on the type of crime, victims can also be eligible for adjustment of status, creating new opportunities for them.
The Protection Department at the Consulate of Mexico helps victims of crime by addressing their immediate needs and connecting Mexican nationals with the resources available to them, and accompanying them throughout the process.
How does the consulate assist Mexican immigrants in times of emergency, such as natural disasters or public health crises?
As soon as an emergency occurs, the Consulate seeks to identify if there are any Mexican nationals affected by the particular situation. We travel to the location where the emergency happened to identify those affected and attend to their immediate needs (clothing, food, housing, identification).
We work closely with organizations such as the Red Cross, to make sure that our Mexican nationals have knowledge of the resources available and that they can access them.
We want our community to know that they are not alone in these types of crises.
Can you elaborate on the educational and outreach programs that the consulate conducts to inform Mexican immigrants about their rights and available resources?
Through the preventive protection area of the Protection Department, we team up with local organizations and our PALE partners to go out into the Community and meet with them to let them know about the rights that they have, regardless of their immigration status. These go from rights in the workplace to the rights that they have when they encounter any local, state or federal authority.
Recently we organized events in Mexican restaurants, where we know that are community concurs, and these have been helpful in identifying not only immigration cases that have the possibility of adjustment of status, but also issues of misrepresentation and even fraud.
How does the consulate address issues related to family reunification for Mexican immigrants in the United States?
We can talk about two types of reunification. One relates to minors that are under the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement, who oversees the reunification of unaccompanied minors found crossing the border. In these cases, we interview each minor to see how they are and, if parents need any type of documentation, we can assist them to facilitate the reunification process.
The other type of reunification that we help with is when Mexican nationals wish to go back to their families in Mexico but do not have the financial resources to do so. We can help them with transportation costs to facilitate their return to Mexico
How can Mexican immigrants stay informed about the services and events organized by the consulate?
We invite everyone to go to our webpage (consulmex.sre.gob.mx/filadelfia) and visit our social media accounts in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@ConsulmexFila)
One final question. Since you are a native of Tijuana, Where can one find the best Shrimp Tacos in the Philadelphia area?
To be fair (and diplomatic), there are many great Mexican restaurants that offer amazing food. I have tried tacos in Tonalli and Mezcal Cantina and they have been great. But other restaurants such as Sí Taquería and Cantina La Martina offer amazing shrimp tacos as well. And Mexican food is not only tacos, there are many different (and authentic) flavors that you can taste throughout the city.
An interesting fact: another famous plate that has Tijuana as its birthplace is Caesar´s salad. So when you have this salad at your favorite restaurant, you can think of Tijuana and Mexico and the impact our gastronomy has had in the world.
Spoken like a true Diplomat. Thank you for your time today Sebastián