Mexico, 15 Others Challenge Ala. Immigration Law

Mexico and 15 other countries are filing briefs against an Alabama law which requires public school, pre-employment and increased law enforcement checks to find undocumented immigrants in the state, arguing that the law could lead to violation of the human rights of foreign nationals.

The controversial Alabama immigration law has attracted Obama administration opposition and raised the concerns of Hispanic evangelicals and other church leaders, who are calling for immigration reform to be “fair” in order to allow Latinos to contribute the country as well as fulfill the Bible's commands.

The Mexican embassy filed an amicus brief, in coordination with the governments of several Central and South American countries, to urge the U.S. federal district court in Alabama to respect the fundamental rights of their foreign nationals despite their immigration status.

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In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. Mexico Embassy acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States to enact immigration policies within its territories. The embassy also stated the Mexican government "reiterates its unwavering commitment to protect, by all available means, the rights and dignity of Mexicans abroad."

Alabama's HB 56, the embassy states, "could lead to the violation of the civil and human rights of our nationals."

HB 56, dubbed the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, requires public schools to check students' immigration status and employers to check workers' statuses via E-Verify. The bill also allows police officers to stop suspected undocumented immigrants.

The Obama administration also has filed a lawsuit challenging HB 56's constitutionality. The governments of El Salvador, Columbia, Guatemala and others have, like Mexico, filed amicus briefs supporting the administration's challenge.

Hispanic leaders and church leaders have also spoken against harsh state reforms.

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, argues that immigrants can actually help the economy if given the opportunity to become legal American residents.

"Many studies show that if you provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants it would be like a 1 trillion-dollar boom to the economy," asserts Salguero.

He summed, "Immigration is a win-win for the economy and jobs."

Still, many insist that illegal immigrants are depressing state resources and should be expelled for breaking the law.

Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, sympathized with the states enacting such laws but also called for preservation of families in the enforcement of such laws.

"Laws like that are a cry for help," said Carey.

Alabama is not a border state like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Additionally, Hispanics make up 3.9 percent of the state population, according to the U.S. Census. Only 2.9 percent of Alabama residents are foreign born.

Carey believes the slow economy, combined with the 9.1 percent unemployment rate, is making state residents and politicians turn on the immigrant population.

"People are frustrated and fearful, and they're dealing with the economic issues," he said. "They think that immigrants are part of the problem. Actually it's quite clear that immigrants are actually part of the solution to our economic issues."

Carey said it is critical that immigration reform be enacted, so that U.S. laws can be respected and enforced. But he also has concerns about immigration laws being implemented and enforced. As an evangelical, he stressed that any attempt at immigration reform must preserve the unity of the family – which is sacred – and treat immigrants with dignity as humans made in God's image.

The Bible, he highlighted, urges the church to welcome the stranger as if he were a messenger from God.

"It's a joy really for Christians to welcome the stranger, and we find it always a blessing as we read in Hebrews," said Carey.

Arizona and Georgia have also passed tough immigration reforms.

Last year, the Arizona legislature passed the controversial Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. The bill requires state and local law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of any individual they "reasonably suspect" of being in the United States illegally.

The law raised fears among immigrant communities that they could be profiled and taken away from their family and friends at any time. The act was later blocked by the Obama administration.

In January, Georgia lawmakers introduced a bill similar to the Safe Neighborhoods Act that would also punish anyone who aided illegal immigrants.

While the Georgia bill was passed, portions of the law have been struck down.

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