(Reuters) – The Mexican government on Wednesday praised a U.S. judge’s decision to block key parts of a tough new immigration law that is poised to impact the large Mexican community in the U.S. state of Arizona.
Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said the injunction from a U.S. district judge, which came the day before the controversial law was due to come into effect, was a “first step in the right direction.”
The Mexican government has repeatedly expressed concerns about the Arizona law, the toughest so far in the United States, that would require police officers to determine the immigration status of a person they detain or arrest if the officer believes the person was in the country illegally.
But U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on Wednesday blocked several of the most controversial parts of the law — including a requirement for immigrants to carry identification papers at all times — to the relief of activists who said the measure was discriminatory.
Espinosa said Mexico was still concerned about the rights of Mexican citizens in Arizona and was stepping up consular protections in the border state, believed to be home to up to half a million illegal immigrants, many of them from Mexico.
Police across the desert state, which is the principal corridor for human and drug smugglers entering the United States from Mexico, have been preparing to implement the law, which comes into effect on Thursday.
“The Mexican government has implemented and will continue to strengthen actions to prevent the violation of immigrants’ rights,” Espinosa told a news conference in Mexico City.
The U.S. Justice Department had argued that provisions of the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature three months ago, encroached on federal authority over immigration policy and enforcement.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Missy Ryan and Sandra Maler)