Lorenia I. Ton Quevedo, a liaison to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, works in the consulate's new office at La Placita Village. JILL TORRANCE / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

In response to an increasing amount of immigration legislation in Arizona, the Mexican government has added a second consulate office in Tucson and increased its staff to the highest level in its Tucson history.

The Mexican Consulate’s protection department has moved into a new and bigger facility at La Placita Village downtown, where staff members take and process reports from Mexican nationals living in Pima and Pinal counties.

 “This is in response to what we’ve said for years — the increase of anti-migrant laws,” said Juan Manuel Calderón Jaimes, the Mexican consul in Tucson.

Last year, after Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, the consulate hired four additional employees for its protection department. The department had eight full-time staffers at that time. The two combined offices now have 34 employees.

Mexican officials have been holding meetings and panels in schools, churches and other public places to inform Mexicans about their rights and the effects of the new immigration law and other bills introduced in the Arizona Legislature.

The Mexican consul says the number of rights-violation reports has doubled, most of them immigration and administrative cases. The consulate said a bigger facility with space for confidential interviews was necessary.

“Our people are living times of uncertainty about what’s going to happen with SB 1070, and with all the new laws aimed at illegal immigrants that are being proposed in the state,” Calderón said.

Before the move, the protection department shared offices with other consulate employees at 553 S. Stone Ave. That office will remain open for services such as documentation for Mexicans, passports and visas, as well as social programs offered by the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.

The consulate’s protection department responds to matters such as domestic violence, detentions, human-rights abuses and workplace accidents, and it assists with deportation cases, missing people and repatriating the deceased.

“We assist Mexican nationals in many different ways,” said Jacobo Tellez, head of the protection department. “We also periodically visit detention centers and prisons.”

The opening of the new offices comes at a time when the Legislature is proposing several bills aimed at illegal immigrants.

“This is a small oasis,” said Ricardo Castro, referring to the consulate. Castro is research associate at the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies.

In 2008, the Mexican Consulate here also created a call center for complaints and to assist its citizens living in Arizona.

The call center is open 24 hours a day, and it takes reports from California and Texas, and even from Central America. 

 Calderón said the center load has grown from about 250 phone calls a month to nearly 3,000 reports.

Did you know

The Mexican government first opened an office in Tucson in 1987. The office was formally declared a Mexican Consulate in 2001.

Consulate protection office

• Address: 110 S. Church Ave., Monterrey Building, Suite 5132. Phone: 623-7928.

• Hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Mariana Alvarado at 573-4597 or malvarado@azstarnet.com