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Mexican government: Alabama law could promote racial profiling

By Joe Sutton and Michael Martinez, CNN
  • Mexico files a court brief saying the Alabama law could violate human and civil rights
  • Mexico's brief is part of a class-action lawsuit against Alabama filed by civil rights group
  • The new law will take effect on September 1

(CNN) -- A new Alabama immigration law could lead to racial profiling and adversely affect the rights of Mexican nationals living in or visiting the state, Mexican officials said Friday.

The Mexican government is challenging the Alabama law, which takes effect September 1, in a friend of the court brief supported by 15 other Latin American countries and filed this week as part of a class-action lawsuit initiated by several prominent civil rights groups.

The Alabama law also could have a "negative effect" on U.S. relations with Latin America, particularly on U.S.-Mexico cooperation, said Lydia Antonio, spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department filed its own suit challenging Alabama's HB 56. It contends the law undermines federal responsibility over immigration and is designed to affect "virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant's daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school."

The Justice Department also asserted that the Alabama law may also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors, legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who may not be able to readily prove their lawful status.

"Mexico is deeply concerned by provisions of the law regarding detentions that could lead to racial profiling in violation of civil and human rights of Mexican nationals residing or visiting Alabama," Antonio told CNN on Friday.

"Mexico is also particularly troubled by sections of the legislation requiring elementary and secondary schools to determine the immigration status of children and their parents upon enrollment as criteria to refer them to certain school programs, and which may lead to discrimination," Antonio said.

The Alabama legislation, which House Republicans said authorizes law officers to ask the immigration status of persons they suspect are undocumented immigrants, was passed and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley in June.

In a statement Friday, Bentley defended the new law.

"Lawsuits have been filed in every state that has passed a strong immigration law," Bentley said. "The Federal government did not do what it was supposed to do to enforce laws against illegal immigration. That is why I campaigned on the need for a strong immigration law in Alabama.... I will continue to fight at every turn to make sure we have a strong immigration law in Alabama."

Other illegal immigration crackdowns have been passed into law in recent months in Arizona, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina. Parts of those laws have been suspended in four of those states, pending resolutions to lawsuits.

In June, a federal judge struck down a key part of the Georgia law, ruling police cannot inquire about immigration status when questioning suspects in certain criminal investigations.

Supporting the Mexico's amicus curiae brief are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay, Mexican officials said.

The Mexican government pledged it would immediately respond to any violations of the fundamental rights of Mexicans, regardless of their immigration status.