Arizona Immigration Law: Mexico Gets Involved in US Supreme Court Case

Article excerpt

The Arizona immigration law threatens Mexico-US relations, says a brief submitted on behalf of Mexico and 16 other countries ahead of Wednesday's oral argument at the Supreme Court.

Arizona's tough immigration enforcement law threatens to do more than make life unbearably difficult for illegal immigrants. It also threatens to sour US foreign relations with Mexico and other Latin American nations.

That's the message in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in advance of Wednesday's oral argument at the US Supreme Court over Arizona's controversial law known as SB 1070.

"SB 1070 poses an imminent threat to Mexico-US bilateral relations," declares the brief submitted on behalf of Mexico and 16 other countries.

"Mexico cannot conduct effective negotiations with the US when the foreign policy decisions of the federal governments are undermined by individual states," the Mexico brief says.

The 45-page friend-of-the-court brief was submitted in support of the Obama administration, which is asking the high court to uphold a federal judge's decision in 2010 blocking most parts of the Arizona law before it could take effect.

The Mexico brief is interesting, in part, for the information it leaves out.

For example, the brief does not mention that there are an estimated 6.8 million Mexican nationals currently residing in the US without legal authorization. In addition, at least 6 million more Mexicans are legal permanent residents who have not become US citizens.

Last year, Mexicans in the US - both illegal and legal - sent $22.7 billion in family remittances home to Mexico. It is Mexico's second largest source of foreign revenue after tourism.

Among the 16 countries joining Mexico's brief are the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. After Mexico, they are the three largest contributors of undocumented immigrants currently in the US. According to federal estimates, there are 660,000 undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, 520,000 from Guatamala, and 380,000 from Honduras.

Those four countries account for 73 percent of all illegal immigrants currently in the US, according to federal estimates. (That is 8.36 million of an estimated total 11.5 million undocumented immigrants.)

"Mexico asserts its legitimate interest in ensuring that its citizens, regardless of their migratory status, are not deprived of their rights under the US Constitution and international law, or subjected to hostile attitudes or actions by US state actors or the society at large," New York lawyer Henry Solano wrote in the Mexico brief.

Critics say SB 1070 would encourage illegal racial profiling by police. Supporters say the law can be enforced without attention to race or ethnicity.

Although the Arizona law was blocked, that didn't stop legislation elsewhere. Five other states enacted similar immigration enforcement laws.

Now the issue is at the Supreme Court where the justices must decide whether Arizona overstepped its authority by enacting a state law designed to enforce federal immigration requirements.

SB 1070 sought to dramatically ramp up enforcement by enlisting state and local officials to check the immigration status of those they suspected were in the US illegally.

The Obama administration took issue with the state-led crackdown, noting that it clashed with President Obama's priority of seeking to direct federal immigration enforcement at undocumented immigrants who were convicted criminals, while leaving others alone.

In challenging SB 1070, administration lawyers said Arizona was attempting to usurp powers assigned exclusively to the federal government. It is the job of Congress and executive-branch officials to determine who may enter the US and under what conditions they may remain in the country, government lawyers say.

Immigration enforcement, the administration also argues, is intricately connected to the conduct of foreign affairs. …