Rural residents often visit the nearest major city to access services. The Guatemalan consulate is turning the tables by taking their services directly to the rural areas closer to their citizens residing in the United States.
The Guatemalan Consulate in Chicago is responsible for serving Guatemalans in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Guatemalans living in any of those states need to travel to Chicago for services, such as passport renewals and identification cards. However, mobile consulate visits can save them the trip. The visits are usually scheduled in places with higher concentrations of nationals. Despite the rural location in southwest Minnesota’s farm country, Worthington, Minnesota fits the profile as more than 40% of the 13,000 residents are Latino. The local Community Education offers up space and assistance coordinating details and volunteers.
On May 9, Guatemalans could request an appointment for the Guatemala Mobile Consulate visit to Worthington May 20 to 22. Services offered were passport requests and renewals, consular ID processing and civil registries. Demand at the consulate visits was historically overwhelming and the two year gap in “Consulados Móviles” due to COVID-19 increased demand further. Within just a few hours, the three days worth of appointments were booked.
Those who work with the immigrant community are well aware of the need for these services. Dozens of volunteers from community education, the local union, area nonprofits and advocacy groups signed up to help. Volunteers directed traffic, double checked paperwork, made copies and distributed coffee.
In an effort to assist Guatemalans who were unable to get one of the appointment slots, the consulate also admitted everyone waiting outside at 5 p.m. on the Saturday of the visit. Consulate staff ended up working past midnight to assist the extra constituents. On Sunday staff had to turn away dozens of constituents waiting outside to catch their flights back to Chicago.
Guatemalans living hours away—from St. Cloud, Minnesota to Nebraska—were served at the event. According to Sharon Johnson, community education director and coordinator of the visit, “the Consulate surpassed the goal of serving 600 clients and successfully processed paperwork for 759 people.”
If it weren’t for the mobile embassy, the Guatemalans who were served at the event would have had to travel to Chicago, an expensive trip not only in travel costs but also missed work. Guatemalans looking for future mobile consulate visits can find the schedule here.
Photo credit: alejandro aquino/EyeEm - stock.adobe.com