Mexicans in the U.S. deserve human rights, just as Americans do in Mexico

People demonstrating against Senate Bill 4, the "sanctuary cities" ban, march near the Riverwalk in San Antonio on June 26, 2017. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia heard opening arguments from Texas cities and counties challenging the measure, signed int Photo by Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune

For decades, the United States and Mexico have appreciated the value of friendship while collaborating on matters of natural resources, trade and cultural exchanges.

The hands of friendship were extended over the Rio Grande in the 1960s near Del Rio, Texas, when the presidents of both nations agreed to build a dam to provide irrigation water storage, flood control and hydropower generation. Later, the North American Free Trade Agreement strengthened our bond for the economic benefit of both countries, particularly along border states.

Unfortunately, the extended hand of friendship by the United States has turned into a closed fist, as the fundamental human rights of Mexican nationals living there — regardless of their immigration status — are increasingly under threat.

The anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, nativist posturing of President Donald Trump, as well as Texas’ enactment of Senate Bill 4, a racial profiling law against Latinos and immigrants, have caused the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico to seek relief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States. We also have filed a “friend of the court” brief with U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia, who is hearing the lawsuit filed by major Texas cities and other jurisdictions against SB 4.

SB 4 is causing fear and great anxiety for Latino adults and children alike, even if they have legal status or have become U.S. citizens. It allows law enforcement to question the immigration status of people they detain, which has led to worries that police will target people based on their appearance, or on how they speak. It is conceivable that those who face interrogation could be expelled from the country even if there is a misunderstanding about the person’s immigration status. Detentions and deportations will lead to families being separated without regard to those left behind, including innocent children.

In our filing with the Federal District Court, we assert that SB 4 is unconstitutional on several grounds — chiefly that it is so vague that it will lead to arbitrary and discriminatory application. Our legal argument is based on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals finding in the case of Women’s Medical Center of Northwest Houston vs. Bell, which found that, “a law is unconstitutionally vague if it (1) fails to provide those targeted by the statute a reasonable opportunity to know what conduct is prohibited, or (2) is so indefinite that it allows arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

We also argue that SB 4 will lead to arbitrary, unconstitutional detentions; that enforcement will be based on racial profiling; and that it will violate the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and religious freedom.

The last argument goes to the law’s extension to the campuses of private universities and colleges, challenging their autonomy and forcing them to carry out a law that violates their core institutional values, such as inclusion of all communities and prohibition against discrimination. The law also violates the religious values of faith-based institutions that seek equal protection of all people, including immigrants and the most vulnerable among us.

Fortunately, Judge Garcia has enjoined the State of Texas from enforcing and implementing several key portions of SB 4, ruling that they, “on their face, are preempted by federal law and violate the United States Constitution.” Nevertheless, the legal battle is not over, and the case could reach the Supreme Court.

To those who may argue that we should not interfere in the governance of Texas and the United States, we simply say that we will always defend the fundamental rights of persons of Mexican origin residing there, just as Americans and migrants of all nationalities would expect fair treatment of its people in Mexico.

Luis Raúl González Pérez

President, National Human Rights Commission of Mexico