Mexican Senators Come to U.S. in Hopes of Influencing Immigration Debate


Mexican-American. (Photo: Narith5/flickr)

A group of Mexican senators, aware of the immigration reform impasse at the federal level of the U.S., has decided to go local. The legislators are visiting their U.S. counterparts in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah to try to influence the immigration debate. These states have passed restrictive immigration laws that are currently being challenged in the court system by the U.S. government and civil rights groups.

“We have high hopes that these laws will not take effect,” Sen. Carlos Jimenez Macias said through an interpreter. Macias and the other Mexican senators spoke last Tuesday at a workshop on international immigration in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy (SUNY), the Transatlantic Academy and the German Marshall Fund.

The senators maintained they pin their hope on “very important allies in this country that are against these pieces of legislation.”

“We don’t want the problem of anti-immigrant laws to Mexicanize itself,” Sen. Ruben Velasquez Lopez added. “This is something that affects all the illegals in the United States and they are from many nations. Our fellow countrymen are just part of the total.”

Macias said that they want state and federal legislators to understand that migration is a constitutive part of globalization and is greatly influenced by market forces, that is, by supply and demand. If there were no demand for migrant labor in the U.S., then people would not cross the border.

“If there were no jobs in the United States, Mexicans would not leave their country,” Macias quipped. “Nobody goes to suffer in another country; you’d rather stay home and suffer.”

The senators also touted recent reform of Mexico’s immigration system, which they enacted through the Migratory Act of 2011. The law’s objective is to regulate the flow of Mexican and Central American migrants within a framework of “respect, protection, and safety in regard to human rights, the contribution to national development, and the preservation of national security and sovereignty.”

“Definitely, the highest motivation to reform the law in Mexico had to do with the grave violations of human rights of Central American immigrants in our country,” Macias admitted.  The senator explained that they had to address this issue if they were to ask the United States to treat their own countrymen with respect. He said they wanted to have the “moral quality to demand just treatment from the American government.”

They also want to show that immigration reform is possible and that migration can benefit both sending and receiving nations. Buena suerte, Senadores. I trust that no one will ask for your papers.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog. Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Sirus Fund

AboutErwin de Leon
Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.