At the Mexican Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, the date 29 July had been marked on calendars for months.

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At the Mexican Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, the date 29 July had been marked on calendars for months. This was the week Arizona was scheduled to begin enforcing the United States’ most aggressive laws to trap illegal immigrants: police officers will for the first time be empowered to ask anyone suspected of lacking legal papers to present them.

Law SB1070 clearly targets Mexican nationals in the state – they constitute an overwhelming majority of the estimated half-million illegal immigrants in Arizona – and their government has been unusually vocal on the type of local political fight that embassies typically avoid. Upon the bill’s passage, an embassy spokesman issued a statement warning of its “potentially dire effects”, as the ambassador rallied 11 fellow Latin American embassies to lend their names to a “friend of the court” motion challenging the law.

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