Why Mexico opposes the Arizona immigration law

Across the political, geographic, and ideological spectrum, Mexicans say they are against the new Arizona immigration law. Some will boycott Arizona. But others worry about loss of income from Mexicans sending home money from jobs in the US.

Gregory Bull/AP
A man waits in a line at the border to legally cross into Arizona from Nogales, Mexico, Wednesday. Mexicans say they are against the new Arizona immigration law.

Mexico, like most countries, abounds in diversity that is often-celebrated but can also lead to stereotyping. Veracruzanos might look suspiciously at the “Chilangos” of the capital. Northerners proudly boast that they are the most upfront and honest Mexicans.

But the tough new Arizona immigration law, which Mexican President Felipe Calderon immediately denounced as discrimination, has united Mexicans from all points of the compass.

“We are all against it, from Baja California to Campeche,” says Jose Luis Jimenez. “It is racial discrimination against all of us, simple.”

Mr. Jimenez was en route to his home in Guadalajara, after attending a banking convention in Mexico's capital. He was one of thousands of Mexicans at Mexico City´s international airport catching flights home or heading to business meetings or to visit family Thursday, nearly a week after the Arizona immigration bill was signed into law. The law allows local police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

Some Mexicans have more at stake on this issue than others. But almost to a person, they say that the move – which Arizona implemented to deal with an unabated tide of illegal immigration – is not just discriminatory but counterproductive because so much of the US economy depends on cheap Mexican labor.

Impact on Mexican pocket books

Janet Garcia, a soft-spoken woman on her way home to a tiny pueblo in the southern state of Oaxaca, says her farming community has not stopped talking about the law since it was first unveiled. This isn't just patriotism, it's personal: most of them get by on the remittances sent home from brothers, fathers, and husbands toiling in the US. Quite simply, US immigration politics affects their daily existence. “We depend on that income,” says Ms. Garcia, who has a brother in California.

The law has also unified Hispanic activists in the US, who are organizing mass protests for May 1 celebrations in more than 70 cities across the country that promise to be bigger than the 2006 protests that drew activists across the country calling for immigration reform.

In Mexico, politicians of all ideologies have unanimously condemned the law. So have newspapers, religious leaders, and governors from across the country. “We are all brothers, Mexicans and Latin Americans,” says Rafael Flores, a medical technician awaiting a flight, “in the face of something so unjust.”

The move is a particular blow for Mexicans in the border region, who understand that a border is a national demarcation but means little when it comes to family, education, and health care. “Americans travel to Mexico to shop, Mexicans travel to the US to visit family,” says Domingo de la Mora, on his way to Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Jose Oswaldo Reyes, a mechanic heading to a job in Merida on the Yucatan peninsula, says the law may win the governor of Arizona political points but will do little to stem migration from Mexico. “Mexicans will continue to go to the US, even if not to Arizona then to another state,” he says.

Boycott Arizona

But at least a few say they will boycott Arizona. “I felt terrible when I heard about the law,” says traveler Maria Elena Guijarro, who visits California once a year but says now she would not consider Phoenix or anywhere else in Arizona as an alternative.

“It is in protest,” says her husband, Mr. Jimenez. “We will not go to a place where our civil rights are not recognized.”

Mr. Flores, on his way to San Diego to visit friends and view medical equipment, referrs with a smile to last-minute stragglers rushing to board an Aeromexico flight to Phoenix: “Thank God I am not on that one.”


of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.