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Mexican opinion of US dwindles amid spread of Arizona-style immigration laws

Georgia's legislature passed a bill Thursday night giving law enforcement broader authority to verify immigrant status, a move inspired by an Arizona law that many Mexicans called 'racist.'

By Andrew KennisContributor / April 15, 2011



Mexico City

Mexicans might now be reticent about taking that midnight train to Georgia. The state legislature Thursday passed an Arizona-style immigration bill authorizing police to check the passport status of anyone deemed “suspicious” and forces businesses to do the same with potential employees.

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The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is expected to sign, is the latest in a wave of immigration reform legislation that is sweeping the US and souring Mexican opinion of America. Prior to the enactment of the Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 one year ago, 62 percent of Mexicans had a positive opinion of the US, compared with 44 percent after the law passed, according to the Pew Research Center.

“I don’t like the climate over there, it’s horrible,” says Felipe Hernandez, a taxi driver in Mexico City, who recently decided against immigrating to the US because of fears over the new laws.

IN PICTURES: The scene at the US/Mexico border

In addition to Georgia, three more states – Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina – are poised to adopt “show me your papers” laws in coming months. As such laws quietly proliferate in the US, Mexicans are anxiously watching, concerned that the US is becoming increasingly xenophobic. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the former mayor of Mexico City and a past presidential candidate, told the Monitor that the Arizona law is “racist” and that he will be “encouraging the defeat of any and all ‘show me your paper laws.’ ”

No less than two dozen states have introduced pieces of legislation with “show me your papers” aspects, although there is some significant doubt whether they will ever be enforced. Not one state has implemented such laws, and nine states have voted down similar proposals. Court challenges to Arizona’s law have prevented its full implementation, including the provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop, and Georgia’s law is also expected to be the target of legal challenges.

"Criminalizing immigration will not stop the flow of Immigration," says Avelino Mendez, a lawmaker representing a Mexico City district. "These laws don’t solve anything.”

"These laws may change the way we see ‘el gabacho,' " says Guillermo Rivera, a constituent from Mr. Mendez’s district, using the Spanish slang for Americans. "But it won’t stop us from going there.”

Mexicans see US in new light

Polling data does indeed reveal a sharply eroded opinion toward the US. Among 21 nations recently surveyed in the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Mexicans had the largest decline in favorable opinion toward the US, with researchers eyeing the Arizona law as the cause. Such opinions are reflected across Mexican politics. Right-leaning President Felipe Calderón has said the Arizona law amounts to a tacit acceptance of racial profiling, echoing the sentiments of left-leaning Mr. Cárdenas.

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