On the one hand, Arizona state Sen. Amanda Aguirre, a Democrat, is leading a delegation of Mexican and Arizonan lawmakers in appealing her state’s strict new immigration law to the United Nations as a possible human rights violation, a radical step that has earned her ignominy among some conservatives concerned about American sovereignty.
On the other, Aguirre is an avid defender of the Bush administration’s border fence, which she says has cut down border crossings, protecting the community she represents from a drug war always on the verge of spilling over into America.
Aguirre attributes her stands on immigration – a departure from how partisans in Washington tend to line up on the issue – to her “very interesting background.”
“I have a Mexican background,” she says, “I also have a great great father with a last name Hamilton who was here fighting against Mexico in the Mexican American war. I have a Hamilton blood and I have Mexican blood, too.”
Her take on the border fence – tarred as unwelcoming or even racist by many Democrats – may underscore the severity of the immigration crisis for states like Arizona, given the rampant drug war murders south of the state’s borders.
The Arizona immigration law, which gives police new authorities to verify U.S. citizenship, is itself a reaction to the worsening border situation. And while Republican Sen. John McCain is running to his right on immigration to protect his flank against a primary challenger, others have contributed his shift as reflecting the changing conditions on the ground in his state.
In 2009, over 6,500 people died in the Mexican drug war. In March, two Americans who worked at the U.S. consulate were killed, including a woman who was four months pregnant. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has launched a police offensive against the cartels involving tens of thousands of troops.
Despite the escalating violence, Arizona’s new immigration law remains divisive, even if broadly popular.
Aguirre’s Mexican-American delegation is making the latest move against the law, appealing to the U.N. and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the name of international law.
Though conservatives have criticized the move, experts say it’s unlikely to accomplish anything significant, in part because the U.S. does not recognize the legitimacy of international courts.
The delegation’s resolution, which is still being translated into English from Spanish, faces other obstacles as well. A spokeswoman for IACHR told The Daily Caller that petitions sent to her organization must include named victims of human rights abuses, and because Arizona’s immigration law has not yet been implemented, that would be impossible.
The spokeswoman further said that, in the end, the most the organization could do, really, is issue a report condemning the law. IACHR has already issued a statement listing its concerns with the law.
For Aguirre, at least, her opposition to the law is not opposition to enforcing the law against illegal immigration.
“I’ve seen … the victims of the human trafficking. I’ve seen the human suffering, too. We don’t want that,” she said.
Conservatives have denounced Aguirre’s international law push, saying American lawmakers should be concerned with American laws.
For instance, the conservative blog Verum Serum said “It looks to me like this action may have violated the oath of office required of all elected officials in” Arizona, because the oath requires lawmakers to support the laws of Arizona.
Aguirre resents the criticism she has received. “I got two e-mails after my press release that I would consider hate emails. And questioning my patriotism … I would always stand up for human rights. That’s the bottom line. My son is getting deployed to Afghanistan. This is the third tour. This is my only son. So for anybody to question my patriotism for this country is not acceptable. Because I’m very proud of my son. I’m very proud of this country. But I also will always stand for human rights.”