Latin America condemns Arizona’s anti-immigrant law

The Arizona anti-immigrant law is garnering international attention. South American presidents issued a declaration condemning it during a 12-nation summit in Argentina, the first week in May, as part of the Union of South American Nations.

The declaration argues the law is a violation of human rights and criminalizes immigrants. It allows for the “detention of persons on a discretionary basis by racial, ethnic, phenotype, language and immigration status considerations, through the questionable concept of reasonable doubt,” says the declaration.

The statement continues noting the controversial law could lead to “the legitimization of racist attitudes” and “regrettable incidents of violence due to racial hatred, of which many South American citizens have already been victims.”

The South American presidents that signed the declaration included Brazil’s Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva; Uruguay’s Jose Mujica; Ecuador’s Rafael Correa; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; Chile’s Sebastian Pinera; Bolivia’s Evo Morales; Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez; and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez. Foreign ministers represented by Peru, Colombia, Surinam and Guyana also co-signed the declaration.

The Organization of American States has also denounced the law.

The measure requires local police in Arizona to detain, based on “reasonable doubt” any person they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer last month and is scheduled to go into effect this summer.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has also voiced his opposition to the law calling it “racial discrimination.” Mexico has warned its citizens to avoid traveling to the border state.

Calderon said relations between Mexico and Arizona will suffer due to the measure. He has also instructed the Foreign Relations Department to double its efforts to protect the rights of Mexicans living in the U.S. and seek help from lawyers and immigrant rights advocates.

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, Ariz.

“This is not about a breaking of relations with Arizona, but rather a way to protest the approval of the law,” the Mexican state government said in a statement.

Others in Mexico have criticized Calderon for not taking a tougher stance against the Arizona law. Some Mexican legislators have urged a boycott against Arizona and several called the federal government’s response lukewarm.

Mexico is Arizona’s largest foreign market. Arizona has sent $4.5 billion in exports to Mexico in 2009 – nearly a third of its total exports.

The World Boxing Council and the Federation of Boxing Commissions of Mexico has announced they have decided not to allow Mexican boxers to fight professionally in Arizona due to the law. The measure is “no other than a flagrant violation to the basic principles of dignity and equality between races,” they charge.

Speaking to a largely Latino audience at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he wants to pursue an immigration bill this year, despite challenges.

“Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken,” the president said. “And after so many years in which Washington has failed to meet its responsibilities, Americans are right to be frustrated, including folks along border states. But the answer isn’t to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation. We can’t start singling out people because of who they look like, or how they talk, or how they dress. We can’t turn law-abiding American citizens – and law-abiding immigrants – into subjects of suspicion and abuse. We can’t divide the American people that way. That’s not the answer. That’s not who we are as the United States of America.”

Obama reiterated he has instructed his administration to closely monitor the new law to examine the civil rights and other implications that it may have.

“That’s why we have to close the door on this kind of misconceived action by meeting our obligations here in Washington,” he said. “The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.”

The president said it won’t be easy and bipartisan support will be required, “but it can be done. And it needs to be done.”

The city councils in two of Arizona’s largest cities have voted to file suit over the state’s law. The Tucson City Council voted 5-1 to file suit, and the city council in Flagstaff approved a similar measure 7-0.

In Boston the city council there passed a resolution this week calling on the mayor to cut ties with Arizona companies doing business with the city.

And civil rights and labor organization teamed up Thursday to announce a nationwide boycott of Arizona unless the law is repealed. The groups include: the National Council of La Raza; the Asian American Justice Center; the Center for Community Change; the Service Employees International Union; and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Opponents of the law have called for a boycott of Arizona tourism and urge that no one engage in any commerce with businesses located in the state.

Meanwhile New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, is asking Arizona Gov. Brewer to delay the start of the law until Congress can try and pass broad new federal policies that would put millions of undocumented immigrants on a path toward citizenship.

Photo: From Chicago’s May Day 2010  immigrant and labor rights march. (Courtesy of Adrian Garcia)


Pepe Lozano
Pepe Lozano

Chicagoan Pepe Lozano was a staff writer with the People's World through 2014. He comes from an activist family and has lived on the city's southwest side in a predominantly Mexican-American community his whole life. Lozano now works as a union organizer.