Mexico, 13 other nations say Utah illegal immigration law could strain diplomatic relations
SALT LAKE CITY — More than a dozen Latin and South American countries have joined Mexico in expressing potential international fallout over Utah's illegal immigration enforcement law.
In a court brief filed Tuesday, the Mexican government lists several reasons for its opposition to HB497, including impeding diplomatic relations, hindering trade and tourism and possible harassment of Mexican citizens.
"Mexico respectfully submits that if HB497 is allowed to take effect it will have significant and long-lasting adverse impact on U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations, and on Mexican citizens and other people of Latin American descent present in Utah," court documents say.
The brief supports a class-action lawsuit the ACLU of Utah and the National Immigration Law Center filed against the state last month, contending the measure passed by the Utah Legislature and signed into law in March is unconstitutional and will lead to racial profiling. A federal judge temporarily put the law on hold and will consider arguments this summer for an injunction to stop enforcement until the case is decided.
Attorneys for the state were originally scheduled to file their response to the lawsuit Wednesday, but were granted a 30-day extension.
Mexico, in the brief, asks the judge to issue the injunction and declare HB497 unconstitutional. Salt Lake attorney Lon A. of Jenkins along with three lawyers form the New York firm Dewey & LeBoeuf submitted the 13-page document.
Jenkins referred questions to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C.. An embassy spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
According to the brief, officials at the highest level of the Mexican government followed the passage of Utah's illegal immigration enforcement bill.
In a separate motion, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay ask to join the brief.
"Similar to Mexico, the governments have a substantial and compelling interest in ensuring that their respective bilateral diplomatic relations with the government of the United States are transparent, consistent and reliable, and not frustrated by the action of individual states, in this case Utah."
Through HB497, Utah "directly interferes" with the State Department's ability to conduct foreign affairs and policy, the brief says.
Ron Mortensen, founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, called the notion that the law would disrupt U.S.-Mexico relations a "bunch of baloney."
"If we intervened in their internal affairs, they would have been screaming Yankee imperialism at the top of their lungs," he said. "What they're saying basically is we will maintain our borders but the United States should allow open borders for our people."
The Utah bill and Arizona's SB1070 spurred "copycat" legislation in other states that, according to the brief, could result in a "dangerous patchwork" of inconsistent state immigration laws.
The Utah law requires police to verify the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors and those booked into jail on class B and class C misdemeanors. It also says officers may attempt to verify the status of someone detained for class B and class C misdemeanors.
Mexico, according to the brief, is "deeply concerned" the law would lead to harassment of Mexican citizens and people who look Hispanic. "Given the growing number of the Hispanic population, it is imperative that immigration enforcement be carried out in a way that is fair to all individuals regardless of their ethnic origin."
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