Taking the unusual step of submitting a federal court affidavit in support of a lawsuit challenging Texas’ “sanctuary cities” law, the Mexican government felt it had to intervene on behalf of the people its consulates serve, Ambassador and Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio Reyna Torres Mendívil said Thursday.
The government’s affidavit was submitted June 26 in the lawsuit filed by Texas cities and counties challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4, signed into law in May by Gov. Greg Abbott.
A statement from the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs said, “Laws such as SB 4 further criminalize migration; open the door to possible acts of racial discrimination; erode the collaboration of the migrant community with local authorities; and create a climate of persecution.”
The government statement also said that six weeks after the bill was signed, the number of citizens asking for legal advice at Mexican consulates in Texas increased 60%.
“This was an innovative action on behalf of the [Mexican] government,” Torres told the Rivard Report Thursday in Spanish.
“Generally, the Mexican government participates from a legal perspective in accordance with the regulations in this country and the power we have as a foreign government with diplomatic representation …. We had [to intervene] – this legislation is clearly discriminatory and singles out the Hispanic population.”
The submission of the affidavit followed a court hearing in which U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia heard arguments for a preliminary injunction meant to block the measure from going into effect on Sept 1. Garcia didn’t indicate when a decision would be issued.
The lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in San Antonio in May and includes the cities of San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, Bexar County, and several other municipal and county governments, organizations, and individuals as plaintiffs.
SB 4 would allow local law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest. It would also threaten police chiefs, sheriffs, and other officials with fines – up to $25,000 – and even removal from office if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The Mexican government has intervened in other situations before, Torres said, such as providing amicus curiae documents regarding Arizona’s SB 1070, also known as the “show me your papers” law.
“In those contexts, we participated in litigation as friends of the court, but this time [with SB 4] it was different,” she said. “The affidavit went out in my name, and the document is an account of what the consular network has observed regarding [the Mexican community] in the last year.”
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While Abbott has argued that SB 4 would increase public safety, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case claim the law would create fear among the undocumented population and deter them from contacting officers to report crimes. In addition, plaintiffs argued that the law would lead to racial profiling, even though lawyers for the State and the U.S. Department of Justice persist “there is no racial focus in SB 4,” and it doesn’t create or define a group.
“The affidavit underscores the Mexican government’s respect for the laws and legal processes of the United States,” the statement from the Mexican government said. “However, it reiterates Mexico’s concern about the possible negative consequences of SB 4 on the Mexican community and on those of Mexican origin, who represent one-third of Texas’ total population.”
Within the 27 counties served by the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio, Bexar County leads with 947,006 people of Mexican heritage. Nueces County follows with 196,604. In total, the Mexican consulate in San Antonio serves 1.4 million Mexicans, according to data obtained from the consulate. Mexico has 50 consulates in the U.S. The largest consulate is located in Los Angeles, an area said to be home to 6 million Mexicans.
The document submitted by the Mexican government offers additional statistics showing an increase in demand for consular services in Texas. In addition to the 60% jump of citizens asking for legal advice, the number of Mexicans requesting information on how to become naturalized U.S. citizens increased by more than 27% over the same time period.
During the months of May and June, the number of Mexicans in Texas who called the Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans (CIAM) increased 678% compared to the same period in 2016. There also was a 32.4% increase in official documents issued to Mexicans and a 45% increase of consular protection cases related to civil law issues.
In San Antonio alone, Torres said, there has been a dramatic impact when it comes to issuing documentation at the Mexican consulate.
“In May of last year we issued 60 birth records and in May of this year [we issued] 200,” she said. “This means that people are preparing for possible deportations or family separation.”
“These figures and statistics reflect the uncertainty our community is facing in Texas and the distress that the implementation of this legislation has caused among the Mexican population,” the Mexican government stated. “The Government of Mexico will continue to closely follow the legal procedures against SB 4, and will resort to all legal actions within its reach in order to continue protecting Mexicans who visit and live in Texas.”