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Mexico issues travel alert over new Ariz. law

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican government warned its citizens Tuesday to use extreme caution if visiting Arizona because of a tough new law that requires all immigrants and visitors to carry U.S.-issued documents or risk arrest.

Two top U.S. officials, meanwhile, criticized the measure and said it may face a legal challenge by federal authorities.

A Mexican government-affiliated agency that supports Mexicans living and working in the United States called for boycotts of Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns until those organizations rebuke the law.

"We are making a strong call to the Arizona government to retract this regressive and racist law that's impacting not only residents of Arizona, but people in all 50 states and in Mexico as well," said Raul Murillo, who works with the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, an autonomous agency of Mexico's Foreign Ministry.

US Airways spokesman Jim Olson said, "We have had absolutely no customers who have canceled fights" as a result of the controversy. Calls to the Diamondbacks and the Suns were not immediately returned.

The boycott demand came hours after Mexico's Foreign Ministry issued its travel alert for Arizona, warning "that any Mexican citizen could be bothered and questioned for no other reason at any moment."

The law's passage shows "an adverse political atmosphere for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors," the alert said.

In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano criticized the law, with Holder saying the federal government may challenge it.

A number of options are under consideration, including "the possibility of a court challenge," Holder said.

A citizen effort to repeal the law also is expected. Jon Garrido, who produces a Hispanic website and ran unsuccessfully last year for the Phoenix City Council, said he plans to begin gathering signatures next week to get a repeal referendum on the November ballot. If successful, the effort would block the law from taking effect until the vote.

U.S. politicians also weighed in on the growing controversy, with election season looming.

In California, Meg Whitman, the Republican front-runner in the California gubernatorial primary, said Arizona is taking the wrong approach.

"I think there's just better ways to solve this problem," Whitman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, seeking re-election, told CBS's "The Early Show" that his state needed such a law because the Obama administration has failed to secure the borders, resulting in drugs pouring into the southwestern United States from Mexico.

Arizona's law -- slated to take effect in late July or early August -- makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. State lawmakers said the legislation, which has sparked huge protests and litigation, was needed because federal officials aren't enforcing existing U.S. laws.

Mexico's alert says that once the law takes effect, foreigners can be detained if they fail to carry immigration documents. And it warns that the law will make it illegal to hire or be hired from a vehicle stopped on the street.

Each day, more than 65,000 Mexican residents are in Arizona to work, visit friends and relatives and shop, according to a University of Arizona study sponsored by the Arizona Office of Tourism. While there, the Mexican visitors spend more than $7.35 million daily in Arizona's stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, the researchers found.

Bimbo Bakeries, one of many Mexican companies operating in Arizona, said Tuesday it doesn't expect Arizona's new immigration law to affect its employees.

"We carefully screen all associates to ensure they are authorized to work in the United States," Bimbo spokesman David Margulies said.

At the Mexico City airport Tuesday, Mexicans heading for the U.S. said they were very troubled by the new law.

"It's humiliating," said Modesto Perez, who lives in Illinois. "It's really ugly."


Associated Press Writer Jonathan Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.


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