Setting up shop for three days at Little Rock's Southwest Community Center, the Guatemalan consulate is providing its citizens with passports and consular ids.
For the past eight years, Stephanie Fox of the Association of Women of Arkansas has been organizing the local visits and spreading the word.
“At this event we’ll have people that come from Oklahoma, that come from northwest Arkansas, that come from surrounding states to come and get assistance.”
Fox's organization also works with the El Salvadoran consulate and is trying to attract representatives from other Latin American countries to set up services in Little Rock as well.
“It’s very important for the Latino community, especially the Guatemalan community to have access to its consulate for identification, for passports and for general support. It is difficult for most Arkansans to travel to Houston or to get their information directly from Guatemala,” Fox said.
For Guatemalan citizens with proper documentation, which can include a birth certificate, expired passport or DPI (Personal Identifaction Document), the consulate is offering passports for 65 dollars and Consular ID cards for 25 dollars.
Aside from a Mexican consulate located along South University Avenue in Little Rock, no other Latin American nation has a permanent office here. Although this is the first time the city has partnered with the Guatemalan consulate, Leonardo Ramos, Vice-Consul from the Houston, Texas-based office says representatives from the Central American country been making regular visits to Arkansas for the past 10 years. In addition to providing identification, he said the consulate also serves to educate it citizens on American customs.
“[We tell them that] they have rights. They have obligations. They have to…respect the law…everything,” he said.
Ramos said his consulate, one of 13 around the U.S., also regularly travels to areas in Texas, Louisiana and Kansas.
According to the most recent U.S. Census data, 4,533 Guatemalans live in Arkansas. Among them is 31-year old Eligio Morales, who with his wife made the trip down from Bentonville to apply for an id. He said obtaining an id will be especially helpful for any encounters with law enforcement officers.
“We don’t know how to show the police we are who we say we are. That’s really important. That way they know…When we show id, they’re more happy about it,” he said.
Fox and Ramos said they expected the three-day mobile Guatemalan Consulate to serve about 1,500 people. It will be open until 4pm Saturday and from 8am to 2pm Sunday.