January 11, 2007

Reed, Whitehouse Urge Portugal to Reconsider Potential Closing of Rhode Island Consulate

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have asked Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates to reconsider the potential closing of Portugal’s consulate in Providence. 
The full text of the letter is below.
January 10, 2007
Eng. Jose Socrates Sousa
Primeiro Ministro
Rue de Imprensa a Estrela 4
1200-888 Lisboa 
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
            We write regarding the potential closing of the Portuguese consulate in Rhode Island. 
            As United States Senators, we fully understand the financial pressures which require your decision to cut back on some foreign consulates.  However, we would like to highlight the invaluable services the Providence consulate provides to the thousands of citizens of Portuguese descent in New England and how the consulate strengthens the bond between our two nations.
            The Portuguese consulate in Providence has proved critical in informing residents of the state and the nation about Portugal’s policies and concerns and its view of U.S. policy.  The consulate offers regular communication with official representatives of the Portuguese government and enhances the ability of the Portuguese American citizens of Rhode Island to act together on behalf of these concerns.  We and our staffs, as well as our constituents, have also found it useful to work with consular officials on a whole range of subjects.
            The Portuguese American citizens of Rhode Island are dedicated, loyal Americans who contribute to our economy, while they continue to be proud of their Portuguese heritage, which is celebrated so vibrantly in Rhode Island.  They rely on the Consulate for innumerable services.  Many have contacted me to express their great concern about the potential loss of this valuable resource.  While there is consular service in Boston, it is not necessarily easy for those in my state who are in need of consular services to travel there.  In addition, the Providence Consulate has proved extremely valuable to my office, including on immigration issues.  With Congress poised to consider potential changes in the U.S. immigration system, we foresee even more utilization of the consulate in the future.  There is no substitute, even in the day of modern communications, for easy direct personal access among people who share important official concerns.
            We understand this is a difficult decision that you must make together with your colleagues.  However, we hope you will consider all that the Providence consulate provides to the state of Rhode Island and a significant Portuguese-American population.
            Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, and thank you for your consideration.
            Jack Reed                                                                    Sheldon Whitehouse
            United States Senator                                                   United States Senator

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