The President of Mexico yesterday waded into the dispute over Arizona's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants, saying it will breed hatred and discrimination and cause a breakdown in cross-border diplomatic relations.
Felipe Calderó*gave an uncompromising speech, claiming that the newly-introduced measure will "open the door to intolerance, hate, and discrimination and abuse" against the Hispanic community. It gives police the power, for the first time anywhere in the US, to stop and question people they suspect of having entered the country illegally.
"Nobody can sit around with their arms crossed in the face of decisions that so clearly affect our countrymen," he told an audience yesterday at the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, adding that trade with Arizona will be "seriously affected" by fallout from the dispute.
Mr Calderón's comments came amid a growing backlash against the controversial law. It was signed last week and takes effect in late July, just as Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer, prepares to fight a tough re-election battle.
Supporters claim it has the approval of roughly 70 per cent of Arizonans, and is necessary to deal with the estimated 460,000 Mexicans living illegally in the state. Opponents say it will simply lead to police harassment of anyone of Latino appearance. Protesters used fried beans to daub swastikas on the windows of buildings at the State Capitol in Phoenix on Monday, while Democrats across the US called for a boycott of goods from Phoenix. A national organisation of immigration lawyers cancelled a convention booked for the city later this year.
The government of Sonora, the Mexican state that borders Arizona, has meanwhile withdrawn from a meeting between politicians and business leaders from the two states which was scheduled for June. It has been held annually for 40 years. The new rules will make it illegal for anyone in Arizona to hire a worker who does not have proof of proper immigration status, or to "knowingly transport" an illegal immigrant. US President Barack Obama condemned them at the weekend, and said they illustrate the importance of his efforts to reform immigration law.
The Reverend Al Sharpton likened the growing campaign against the law to the civil rights movement, saying he will encourage supporters to organise "freedom walks" in which they cross Arizonan cities without carrying documentation that can prove their immigration status.
Speaking in New York, he compared it to the demonstrations in which "freedom riders" boarded segregated buses in the 1960s. "We will go to Arizona when this Bill goes into effect and walk the streets with people who refuse to give identification and force arrest," he said.Reuse content