BIIN Helps Bring Guatemalan Mobile Consulate to Bryan

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BIIN Helps Bring Guatemalan Mobile Consulate to Bryan

Any person who lives outside of their country of origin may need the services of a consulate, an office with the authority to issue governmental identity cards, passports, birth certificates and other official documents. Most countries have consulates in major cities across the U.S. (such as Houston) to provide such services to their citizens, or to non-citizens who want to travel there. However, getting access to those services is not always as easy as you might think, as there can be long wait times for appointments and other complications.

For immigrants who live in Brazos County and work low-wage jobs (often holding down more than one job to support their household), it can be difficult to get sufficient time off, in order to visit a consulate in person, or to know that they will be granted time off, when appointments have to be made months in advance. Having reliable transportation and paying for the cost of travel to and from Houston can also be sources of concern. 

Nonetheless, everyone wants and needs to have their documents in order. For these reasons, consular staff are willing to offer “mobile consulates” outside of major urban centers – as long as they have local partners to help with logistics and to promote the specially scheduled services to local residents who may be interested.

In Brazos County, one person who has long been privy to the concerns of immigrants is Angelita Garcia-Alonzo, one of BIIN’s founders who also leads the Social Ministry at Santa Teresa Catholic Church. In conversations with BIIN Director Jaimi Washburn this spring, Angelita noted that while the Mexican Consulate regularly hosts mobile events in central Texas, there is an on-going need for mobile services for nationals from several other Latin American countries. Jaimi immediately reached out to a contact in the regional Office of Foreign Missions (under the State Department) who works with consulates in Houston. This ultimately led to further communication with the staff of several consulates, including the Consul General of Guatemala in Houston, José Barillas Trennert. Understanding all that BIIN and Santa Teresa were prepared to do to set up and facilitate their visit, Consul General Barillas Trennert agreed to add Brazos County to the calendar of mobile consulates planned for this summer.

A mobile consulate requires space to set up the temporary operation with multiple tables for staff and equipment, room for prospective clients to wait for their turn, access to Wifi, a printer, multiple electrical outlets, air conditioning (a non-negotiable during the Texas summer), restrooms, and a space for staff to take breaks and refuel as needed.  Due to the logistics involved, these events are typically scheduled for a weekend, lasting all day Saturday and Sunday. This enables the staff to travel to the location on Friday, set up their temporary operations, and be available for appointments with local residents at times when most may have some free time.

Guatemala’s Mobile Consulate in Brazos County has been scheduled for August 27 and 28, from 9 am to 5 pm each day.  It will take place at Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan, a location which has both the space and amenities required and just as importantly, is known and trusted throughout the local immigrant community as a place where people’s needs and concerns will be respected, regardless of their national origin or legal status. BIIN staff and volunteers are working with folks at Santa Teresa Catholic Church to work through the logistics, publicize the event, arrange for donations of food and drink, set up the space, and assemble in advance everything needed to ensure that the mobile consulate can operate smoothly.

If you would like to volunteer to help set up, clean up, or during the event (for a specific time on either Saturday or Sunday), please contact Jaimi Washburn at Many hands make light work, and all sorts of skills are needed and appreciated. Let’s come together to welcome the Guatemalan consular staff and to make it easier for hardworking Guatemalan nationals in our community to get the services they need.