Wed, Apr 28, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Calderon slams new immigration law in Arizona


Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday condemned Arizona’s tough new immigration law as discriminatory and warned that relations with the US border state will suffer.

The measure, which will make it a crime under state law to be an illegal immigrant, “opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement,” Calderon said.

Calderon said he had instructed the Foreign Relations Department to double its efforts to protect the rights of Mexicans living in the US and seek help from lawyers and immigration experts.

“Nobody can sit around with their arms crossed in the face of decisions that so clearly affect our countrymen,” Calderon said in a speech at the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.

The Arizona law restored immigration to the forefront of US-Mexico relations, which had largely been focused on deeper cooperation in the drug war.

The government of the Mexican state of Sonora — which borders Arizona — announced it would not attend a cooperation meeting the two states have held annually for four decades. The meeting of the Sonora-Arizona Commission was set for June in Phoenix, Arizona.

The law, set to take effect in late July or August, will require police to question people about their immigration status if they suspect they are there illegally. Day laborers can be arrested for soliciting work if they are in the US illegally, and police departments can be sued if they don’t carry out the law.

The chief of the Organization of American States also criticized the legislation.

“We consider the bill clearly discriminatory against immigrants and especially against immigrants from Latin America,” Jose Miguel Insulza said during a visit to El Salvador.

Calderon said trade and political ties with Arizona will be “seriously affected,” although he announced no concrete measures.

Mexican politicians, church leaders and others have criticized Calderon for not taking a tougher stance against the law.

Some Mexican legislators have urged a trade boycott against Arizona, and several called the federal government’s response lukewarm.

“In Congress, we support any trade and transport boycott necessary to reverse this law,” said Oscar Martin Arce, a lawmaker from the president’s National Action Party.

Mexico is Arizona’s largest foreign market. The US state sent US$4.5 billion in exports to Mexico last yer — nearly a third of its total exports, according to the US International Trade Administration.

Andres Ibarra, president of the chamber of commerce in Nogales, a Mexican city across the border from Nogales, Arizona, said he doubted the government would impose a formal trade boycott, saying it would hurt Mexico most.

Even so, he warned the immigration law would harm Arizona economically. Ibarra said the US state depends heavily on cheap labor from Mexican immigrants and any surge in deportations would make the state less competitive.

Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants.

“It’s regrettable. I think this was a hasty decision that did not consider the consequences, not only for Mexicans and undocumented people from other countries, but also for the Arizona economy,” Ibarra said. “Immigrants, as everyone knows, do the work that Americans don’t want to do.”

Calderon said he would raise his concerns with US President Barack Obama and US lawmakers during a visit to Washington next month.

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