Guatemalan government officials are planning to open a new consulate in San Bernardino, which will serve a growing population of Guatemalan immigrants in the Inland Empire.
The new consulate is expected to open by July. Guatemalan officials said it will serve immigrants not only in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where Guatemalan Americans number roughly 30,000 according to the 2010 census, but also in Orange and San Diego counties.
Southern California is home to the largest number of Guatemalans outside their native country, said Los Angeles consul general Pablo Garcia Saenz.
"For the Guatemalan government, it is very important, the south of California," Garcia Saenz said. "Why? Because 700,000 people from Guatemala are living in the south of California."
In addition to the consulate in Los Angeles, the only other Guatemalan consulate in California is located in San Francisco.
Garcia Saenz said the new consulate will save travel time for Guatemalans in the Inland Empire and other Southern California counties, who now spend hours traveling back and forth from Los Angeles for passports and other services.
Another reason for the new location: San Bernardino County is home to the Adelanto Detention Facility, a large federal immigrant detention center.
Garcia Saenz said the new location will also make it easier for consular staff to visit Guatemalan nationals who are awaiting or fighting deportation.