Mexican citizens in North and South Carolina have been scrambling for documents out of concern over stricter identification requirements and the threat of deportation.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Friday the Mexican consulate in Raleigh is processing more than 3,000 passports a month.
In 2005, the average was 571 passports each month.
The consulate serves an estimated 600,000 Mexicans in both states.
Rodrigo Pintado, who heads the Mexican government's documentation division in Raleigh, said birth registrations also have soared, rising from 28 per month in 2005 to 300 per month this year.
Mexican parents use the birth registrations to seek dual citizenship for their children.
Pintado said the increase in requests for documents is being driven by requirements to have passports for international flights, identification requirements to renew driver's licenses and a fear of deportation as sheriff's offices team with federal immigration officials.
“Most of them are concerned about the current situation in the United States,” Pintado said. “They want to fix all their paperwork in case they need to go back to Mexico.”
County sheriffs also are checking the immigration status of inmates.
Pintado said the consulate doesn't keep figures on illegal immigrants. A 2005 study by the Pew Hispanic Center said an estimated 300,000 people are in North Carolina illegally.
One of those in line this week was Fernando Cruz, a construction worker from Charlotte who came to the United States 12 years ago by walking across the border in Arizona.
Cruz wanted passports for his family – himself, his wife and three children – so they could fly to Mexico in an emergency.
Otherwise, they would have to take a bus trip of up to four days.