Reporting from Mexico City — The Mexican government Tuesday took the unusual step of issuing a travel alert urging extreme caution by Mexicans working, studying or otherwise spending time in Arizona.
The warning came in response to that state's tough new immigration measure, which is to go into effect this summer, requiring people in Arizona to carry proof of their legal right to be in the United States and requiring police to check for it.
It came as more and more Mexican officials across the political spectrum objected to the law, which critics say will lead to racial profiling. Proponents say it is necessary to curb illegal immigration.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday said the measure "criminalizes" the largely social and economic phenomenon of migration. He warned that it would damage long-standing economic, cultural and commercial ties between Mexico and Arizona.
The law "opens the door to intolerance, to hatred, to discrimination and to abuse," Calderon said at a meeting of the government-affiliated Institute for Mexicans Abroad, which works on behalf of the millions of Mexicans who live outside the country — most in the U.S.
The institute Tuesday called for boycotts of U.S. Airways, which is headquartered in Tempe, and games played by the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and the Phoenix Suns basketball team. The head of Calderon's conservative political party called for a moratorium on all trips to Arizona.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry, in issuing its travel alert, urged Mexicans in Arizona to steer clear of the pro- and anti-immigrant demonstrations that have been taking place in the state and to carry all migratory documents at all times.
"As was clear during the [Arizona] legislative process, there is a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors," the alert said, posted in Spanish and English on the ministry's website.
Although details on how the law will be enforced remain unclear, the alert said, "it must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time."
In Sonora, the Mexican state that shares most of the border with Arizona and has the closest relationship, Gov. Guillermo Padres Elias said he was cancelling a twice-a-year conference that the two states have been holding for more than a generation.
"The conditions at this moment are not right," he said, adding that the cancellation was a symbolic protest to convey his government's dismay. "We have many roots in common and a law like this hurts. I hope the friendship between these two states is not [permanently] damaged."
Calderon blamed "opportunistic" state legislators in Arizona with an eye to electoral politics for promulgating the law. The issue is likely to dominate his meeting with President Obama next month at the White House.
"No one can remain with their arms folded, faced with decisions that so clearly affect fellow countrymen, who for generations have contributed to the growth … and to the development and prosperity of Arizona," Calderon said.
He pledged to use "all resources available" to defend Mexicans who run afoul of the law and ordered the five Mexican consulates in Arizona to redouble assistance offered to Mexican nationals.