Mexican President Felipe Calderon denounced as “racial discrimination” an Arizona law giving state and local police the authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants and vowed to use all means at his disposal to defend Mexican nationals against a law he called a “violation of human rights.”
But the legislation, signed April 23 by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, is similar to Reglamento de la Ley General de Poblacion — the General Law on Population enacted in Mexico in April 2000, which mandates that federal, local and municipal police cooperate with federal immigration authorities in that country in the arrests of illegal immigrants.
Under the Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to re-enter can be imprisoned for 10 years. Visa violators can be sentenced to six-year terms. Mexicans who help illegal immigrants are considered criminals.
The law also says Mexico can deport foreigners who are deemed detrimental to “economic or national interests,” violate Mexican law, are not “physically or mentally healthy” or lack the “necessary funds for their sustenance” and for their dependents.
“This sounds like the kind of law that a rational nation would have to protect itself against illegal immigrants — that would stop and punish the very people who are violating the law,” said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, citizenship, refugees, border security and international law.
“Why would Mr. Calderon have any objections to an Arizona law that is less draconian than his own, one he has pledged to enforce?” Mr. King said.
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security, described Mr. Calderon’s comments as “hypocritical to say the least.”
“I would have expected more from Mr. Calderon,” said Mr. Kyl, who serves as the Senate minority whip. “We are spending millions of dollars to help Mexico fight the drug cartels that pose a threat to his government, and he doesn’t seem to recognize our concerns. He ought to be apologizing to us instead of condemning us.”
Mr. Kyl, along with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, has introduced a 10-point comprehensive border security plan to combat illegal immigration, drug and human smuggling, and violent crime along the southwestern border. It includes the deployment of National Guard troops, an increase in U.S. Border Patrol agents and 700 miles of fencing, along with other equipment and funding upgrades.
He said skyrocketing violence on the border, including the recent killing of an Arizona rancher by an illegal immigrant he had gone to assist, has not gone unnoticed by the public, adding that until the federal government provides the necessary funding and manpower to adequately secure the southwestern border, Arizona will not long remain the only state to pass legislation to do it on its own.
Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican and a member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, described Mr. Calderon’s criticism as “arrogant and hypocritical.” He said Mexico’s immigrations laws are “even tougher than those in the United States” and it was inappropriate to denounce the Arizona law when “Mexico does the very same thing.”
“Mexico wants people to come to the United States and to send their money home,” he said. “They want to make their problems our problems — that’s their foreign policy. President Calderon should spend more time focusing on problems in his own country instead of criticizing Arizona for doing what Mexican law requires its own to do.”
Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican who has advocated for stricter border enforcement policies, said the Arizona law was enacted as a result of the nation’s “failed immigration policies.”
“We should focus our time and resources on enforcing policies that work, like zero tolerance, which has reduced crime and illegal immigration dramatically along our southern border,” he said.
Ricardo Alday, a spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, did not return calls for comment.