From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Links Uncovered between LatAm Cartels and Hezbollah
ProPublica examines the links uncovered by U.S. authorities between Latin American drug traffickers, Lebanese banks, and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Connections have been uncovered concerning Latin American drug trafficking profits laundered through Lebanese banks with connections to Hezbollah, as well as in cocaine shipments from South America to the Middle East and Europe. The NPR blog takes a look at the banking connections, and Slate provides an explainer to answer the question: “Why would a Mexican drug cartel selling cocaine to North America want to launder its money through Lebanon?”
Supreme Court to Decide on Arizona Immigration Law
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will rule on the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, in mid-2012. After the law’s passage in April 2010, the Justice Department sued against the measure, and an April 2011 federal appeals court decision prevented parts of the law from taking effect. The Supreme Court will rule on these four blocked parts of the legislation, including a section that allows police to ask for the immigration status of anyone who they believe could be in the United States illegally.
U.S. and Canada Sign Border Accord
This week, Canadian and U.S. officials agreed to “Beyond the Border,” a non-binding plan intended to reduce red tape and speed up border crossings. It would expand the NEXUS program, a membership initiative which helps “trusted” travelers cross the border more easily. It would allow Canadians changing planes in the United States to avoid having their luggage rescreened, and eases rules for business travelers. The plan would also allow for more information sharing about travelers between the two countries, which could raise privacy concerns in Canada. The Economist’s Gulliver blog notes that those who oppose the new measures “can always take solace in the fact that, as with any other government program, it could take years to be realized, even though pilot projects are slated to start this April.”
The Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals court on Monday to review a ban against anti-immigrant legislation in Hazelton, PA. Hazelton’s infamous Illegal Immigration Relief Act of 2006 was deemed unconstitutional by Federal Judge James Munley in 2007. Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld most clauses of Judge Munley’s injunction, effectively shutting down the law.
The Supreme Court can order lower courts to reconsider a decision in light of a more recent high court decision. In this case, the higher court ruling to uphold key provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070—namely that employers would lose their business license if they knowingly employed undocumented immigrants—has led to a revision of the Hazelton law with similar penalties for employers. Ironically, the Illegal Immigration Relief Act is considered the impetus for punitive immigration laws in Arizona, Georgia and across the U.S. since 2006.
But local reaction in Hazleton is mixed. In the wake of this news, one resident commented: “elected officials should bury it [Hazleton's law] , be done with it and get to work on fixing real problems.” The law has also had far-reaching social and economic consequences. Roughly half of Hazelton’s 10,000 Latinos—including its documented population—reportedly left the city due to its immigration law. The town also saw an estimated 20 percent to 50 percent drop in business in the months following its implementation, even though it was eventually blocked.
The Supreme Court decision on Hazelton’s law in many ways exemplifies the current tension at the federal and state levels over progressive versus regressive immigration policy. On the one hand, the Supreme Court decided yesterday to allow California to grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. But last Thursday, the Alabama Legislature passed an Arizona-style immigration bill with a wide margin, and Georgia’s punitive immigration law goes into effect on July 1. The inconsistency of immigration law presents newfound urgency for, as well as clear challenges to, a comprehensive federal immigration policy.
From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Calderón and Obama Condemn Arizona Immigration Law
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderón to Washington this week where the two leaders decried a tough immigration law approved by Arizona last month. During remarks, Obama said he would ask the Department of Justice to take a “very close look” at the law to determine its constitutionality. “We're examining any implications, especially for civil rights, because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person, be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico, should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like.” Calderón rejected SB1070 as “discriminatory.” In his first official visit to Washington, the Mexican president will deliver remarks to U.S. Congress on Thursday. Read an AS/COA analysis about Calderón’s visit.
AS/COA will explore bilateral relations during our March 25 conference in Mexico City. Get a full list of speakers, conference agenda, and more information about the event, which is free and open to the public. The event will be liveblogged in English and Spanish.