El Salvadorian Consulate Visits Herndon, Assists 285

El Salvadorian Consulate Visits Herndon, Assists 285

Council member cites lack of information.

The Neighborhood Resource Center opened its doors to the El Salvadorian Consulate, Sunday, Aug. 29, in an effort to help its citizens renew passports and update identification documents.

The consulate, in an attempt to help citizens of El Salvador who may not have the time to go to the embassy in Washington, visits areas in Northern Virginia every few months, allowing citizens to fill out the proper forms to renew their passports, or to acquire a passport for infants.

"They're bringing to the community to help members of their country," said Vice Mayor Darryl Smith. "This was a great way for people to get their passports updated on a weekend, so people don't have to worry about getting into D.C. on a week day."

There were some concerns expressed by residents of Herndon and council member Ann Null before the event, mainly that the Spanish-speaking media was the only media altered of the event, no English-speaking press was informed.

"THE CONSULATE advertised through their own media," said Smith. "Why would the consulate of El Salvador put press releases in media that most people they are trying to address aren't going to read?"

Null, who said she learned of the visit from the front page of El Comercio, a Spanish publication, said her concerns dealt with the lack of information provided.

"Information was not forthcoming and I found that unusual," said Null. "When Runnymede comes from England that's news, but when other countries come in to town, we are not made aware of that."

Mayor Michael O'Reilly and Smith said that Vecinos Unidos sponsored the consulate's visit after Smith learned from a contact at the embassy that they were looking for a location to meet its citizens' needs.

Because the event was put on through Vecinos Unidos, a non-profit organization, O'Reilly said, it was not connected to the Town Council, so there was no reason to issue a town press release, something Null said she asked Robin Runser, the town's public information officer, to do.

"It wasn't a town-sponsored event, that's why it struck me as odd that people wanted us to write a press release," said O'Reilly. "As a council we don't promote faith-based or non-profit events, we may mention them in a public hearing, but that's all."

SMITH SAID he received an email from the consulate after the event that said about 285 citizens were able to fill out the necessary passport renewal forms on Sunday, a number that a consulate representative told him was the largest they had seen.

Smith said he is disappointed in the opposition to the event and questioned how updating passports could be illegal, adding he hopes to the community will continue to do positive things for its residents.

"People were very happy their consulate came out," he said. "I told [the volunteers] I applaud them because most consulates wouldn't come out on a Sunday and help their citizens."