Saying it needs to protect its citizens in Arizona, legal and otherwise, the Mexican government on Tuesday urged a federal judge to strike down the state's new law aimed at illegal immigrants.
In a "friend of the court" brief, attorneys for the government said they believe SB 1070 will lead to racial profiling despite arguments by Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, that the law specifically prohibits such activity. Brewer also noted she has directed the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to come up with procedures to help officers understand what constitutes "reasonable suspicion" a person is in this country illegally.
But the attorneys for the Mexican government were not persuaded that will make a difference.
"Giving state police the authority to simply create a description of what an illegal immigrant looks like is plainly racial profiling," their legal brief reads. "This inevitably will lead to casting an overbroad net in the pursuit of ‘illegal immigrants,' with individuals being stopped on the basis of appearance."
Beyond that, the Mexican government, speaking through its lawyers, says SB 1070 is part of a larger pattern. The brief specifically cites separate legislation aimed at banning the "ethnic studies" program at Tucson Unified School District.
"It becomes unavoidable to see that Arizona's legislative efforts constitute a discriminatory policy," the lawyers wrote, saying SB 1070's "discriminatory objective runs against the fundamental rights of people living in the United States."
The move comes as the U.S. Department of Justice is weighing whether to enter the dispute directly with its own challenge to the law set to take effect July 29. Various news outlets have quoted anonymous sources saying the decision to sue has been made, though the official word from the agency is that the case is still being reviewed.
Five lawsuits already filed claim the law, which requires police to check the immigration status of those they have stopped when there is "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal immigrants, unlawfully intrudes on the exclusive right of the federal government. A similar claim is aimed at another provision of the law which allows illegal immigrants to be arrested and prosecuted under Arizona trespassing laws.
In filing its brief in one of the existing cases, the Mexican government says a multinational treaty gives it the right to protect the interests of its citizens abroad. And it says SB 1070 "creates an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias."
But the government says its interests go beyond those of the individuals who will be affected. That includes Mexico's ability to have diplomatic relations with the United States, an ability the country's attorneys say would be undermined by Arizona having its own priorities which may conflict with the U.S. federal government.
The law, the Mexican government says, also undermines trade and commerce.
Some of that, it argues, is on the individual level if Mexican nationals are afraid to visit Arizona for work or pleasure. And the numbers are large, with the brief saying 12 percent of people who legally entered the U.S. last year for shopping, tourism, specialty workers and students being from Mexico.
But some of that, the government says, is on the larger level of straining international relations. And the attorneys say this legislation in particular will interfere with efforts in the U.S. to enact "comprehensive immigration reform."
"SB 1070 institutes an independent state system of immigration enforcement that not only derails bilateral economic, social and security efforts, but imperils the U.S. federal government's effort at a comprehensive solution for immigration policy," the brief reads. "Mexico cannot effectively cooperate or engage in meaningful bilateral relations with the U.S. when states are permitted to interfere with the sovereigns' bilateral efforts."