Arizona immigration law 2010: As SB1070 takes effect, Mexicans say 'Adios, Arizona'
Arizona immigration law targeting immigrants has already encouraged Mexicans to begin returning home, even as a US judge halted key portions of SB1070 from taking effect. The Mexico government is boosting legal services in Arizona, and shelters in Sonora state are preparing for an influx.
The country is stocking immigrant shelters with food and beds and is sending human rights observers to border crossings to make sure repatriated Mexicans are not mistreated.
A Phoenix federal judge issued a temporary court injunction on Wednesday, halting the requirement that police check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants. But the judge left intact the law's prohibition on stopping a motor vehicle to pick up day laborers and knowingly employing illegal workers.
IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border
Despite the injunction, Mexico’s five consulates in Arizona remain on high alert and have been working through past weekends to represent migrants with civil rights complaints and to inform communities about the law, the Mexican government said.
Mexican government prepares for fallout
“We will increase our consular presence in Arizona detention centers as well as our permanent communication with [US] federal authorities to stay informed about any incident that involves a [Mexican] citizen,” the Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
The state of Sonora, across the border from Arizona, says it has beefed up security in several border towns to respond to a possible “mass deportation of our countrymen.” An estimated 460,000 undocumented migrants, most of them Mexican, live in Arizona.
Already one of the busiest states for returning migrants, Sonora's government said it will provide transportation for deported Mexicans to return to their home states. It is also preparing close to 20 new shelters to add to the seven state-run facilities already in operation.
Other states, such as Guanajuato and Chihuahua have announced employment programs for possible returnees, the Mexican daily newspaper El Universal reported Thursday.
Mexico has already extended its annual voluntary repatriation program in anticipation of the Arizona law, beginning the measure earlier than usual in June.
Preparing beds for influx of returnees
But not everyone who works with immigrants is convinced the Arizona law will cause a mass return. Arizona has passed a series of strict immigration laws in recent years, but fears of Mexico being swamped by returnees as a result have proven unfounded, says Francisco Loureiro, who runs the Juan Bosco shelter in Nogales, Sonora.
“Occupancy only increased by 15 percent” as a result of past laws, says Loureiro. “This time there might be 20 percent to 25 percent.”
To be on the safe side, and because he has already received a trickle of immigrants frightened away from Arizona, Loureiro has doubled the number of volunteers and beds, and is requesting donations for water and warm clothes.
Most undocumented Mexicans who flee Arizona will opt to move to another US state rather than return to Mexico, say some experts.
Take Fernando Cortez. The 30-year-old house painter was deported last week from Arizona after he says police applied the immigration law early – handing him over to border patrol when he was caught driving without a license. He is now living in the Juan Bosco shelter while he plans how to return – illegally – to the United States next year.
But he says he will steer clear of Arizona and instead head to Florida.
“Adios, Arizona,” he says.
IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border