Yumare Mexican folkloric dancers
Yumare Mexican folkloric dancers May 1, 2016, during Plaza Mayor's Cinco de Mayo fiesta in OKC. (Doug Hill)

WASHINGTON — Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Monday its intention to open two new consulates, one in Oklahoma City and another in New Jersey.

The OKC consulate and the New Jersey consulate are being created to increase the capacity of the Mexican government’s consular network and deal with recent demographic changes in the Mexican community in the U.S.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said on Twitter that the city has more than 106,000 residents of Mexican descent and that community and elected leaders have pushed for a consulate for years.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

“Today we are a big step closer!” the mayor said.

Holt, in response to a question about whether the new consulate would be on Capitol Hill, said, “Probably premature to talk location when the intent to open in OKC was just announced hours ago, but that would be great!”

The Mexican consulate in Oklahoma City will become the second foreign consulate located in the state’s capital, joining the Guatemalan consulate located at 5909 NW Expressway.

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the government aims to reduce delays in consular procedures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and increase the consular network’s capacity to accommodate recent demographic changes in the Mexican community in the U.S.

“The reassignment and adjustment of jurisdictions have the objective of improving service, attention, proximity, the possibility of solving problems and the protection and defense of the migrants in the United States,” Ebrard said at a news conference on Monday in Mexico City.

Ebrard said the Mexican community in the U.S. plays an important role in the growth of the American economy and armed forces.

Oklahoma City residents of Mexican descent have long sought the opening of the consulate, most recently by a petition drive.  Despite those efforts, the consulates in Kansas City, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas, currently serve the approximately half million Oklahomans the Mexican government estimates need consular services.

The Mexican government still needs to negotiate with the U.S. Department of State to obtain the necessary authorizations to establish the new consulates, which it hopes to open in 2022.

The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently operates more than 50 consulates in the U.S. and Canada.

One Oklahoman who is happy about the announcement is Kevin Palomino, a journalism major at the University of Oklahoma and Mexican DACA recipient. He said an OKC consulate will be particularly beneficial to business owners who will be able to avoid closing to travel to Missouri or Arkansas for services.

Palomino said the announcement of the Mexican consulate is a deserved recognition for all the Hispanic community does for the state.

“I think the consulate is long overdue,” he said. “The Mexican community in Oklahoma has advocated for a consulate for years.”

“I’ve had to make trips to Little Rock, Kansas [City], and Dallas since I was a child,” he added. “I had to miss school, and my parents had to miss work, all to renew my passport when I could’ve done it by driving down the street.”