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Mexican Migrants Still Wary After Arizona Law Ruling
email this pageprint this pageemail usAlonso Castillo - Reuters
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July 30, 2010

The introduction of a new law in Arizona has angered activists in Mexico who say the law is discriminatory. In response they are trying to organize a boycott of Arizona. Al Jazeera's Franc Contreras reports from Mexico City.
Nogales - A judge's decision to block key parts of a tough immigration law in Arizona on Wednesday did little to encourage Mexicans who say rising xenophobia in the United States is their worst enemy.

Even as the Mexican government praised U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling as a step in the right direction, people in the city of Nogales, across the border from Arizona, accused U.S. authorities of deporting them for doing jobs shunned by Americans.

"You can feel the repression, the hatred against us on U.S. streets," said Javier Mendez, a Mexican who had a job washing dishes in Oregon until he was deported this week. "I went to visit my mother in Tucson and they threw me in prison and took me away from my family."

In recent years, the U.S. Border Patrol has heightened surveillance as it seeks to stem the flow of drugs, weapons and illegal immigrants across the porous Mexican-U.S. border.

Federal, state and local authorities are using legislation and beefed-up enforcement to target many of the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants believed to be living across the United States.

Bolton's ruling freezes sections of the law, passed by Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature three months ago, that would have given police the power to investigate anyone reasonably suspected of being an illegal immigrant and made it a crime not to carry identification papers.

As Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vows an appeal, the fate of the controversial law is uncertain as it was due to take effect on Thursday.

"We know that even with the 'no' to the law the feeling of xenophobia has grown and that won't go away with one judge's ruling," said Rafael Hernandez, director of a migrant rights group in Tijuana, across from San Diego, California.

Polls show the law is backed by a solid majority of Americans and by 65 percent of Arizona voters. Opposition by many Americans to illegal immigration has built support for copycat efforts in at least 20 other states.

"It is not just the law we are protesting, it is the hate that goes with it," said Sergio de Alba, a Mexican farm leader who spoke at a protest on Wednesday in Mexico City.

Illegal immigrants complain they are summarily rounded up in raids by U.S. law enforcement, forced to abandon their families and deported to dangerous Mexican border cities with no money. Some of them have spent most of their lives in the United States and barely speak Spanish.


Many Hispanics in the United States voted for President Barack Obama in hopes he could usher in reforms and provide a path to legal residency for illegal immigrants.

While the Obama administration opposed Arizona's new law, the president has been unable to win support from Republicans for immigration reform, battling against the perception that foreigners are swarming the border and taking American jobs.

Spiraling violence in Mexico, where President Felipe Calderon is battling increasingly bold drug cartels, has increased calls for tighter controls on the border.

Despite a weak U.S. economy, many Mexicans dream of working in the United States, where they can often earn more in a single hour than they can in a whole day's work at home.

Arizona is the principal corridor for smugglers moving illegal immigrants into the United States.

But undocumented immigrants face more controls than they did before the September 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants in 2001. Workplace raids have become more common in central and northern U.S. states.

"I was put in a U.S. prison along with murderers and criminals with 25-year sentences," said Jose Antonio Lopez, who was deported to Nogales last week after being arrested in Las Vegas. "All I did wrong was cutting someone's lawn."

(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Caroline Stauffer in Mexico City; Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Missy Ryan and John O'Callaghan)

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