MEXICO CITY — In the heart of the Mexican capital a crowd of 100 activists stood silently outside the imperious American Embassy on Wednesday waiting for a judicial decision 1,800 miles away in Phoenix, Arizona.
When news was announced that Judge Susan Bolton had blocked the Arizona law’s most controversial provisions, the crowd burst into applause.
“Yes, we could do it. Yes, we could do it,” demonstrators shouted, echoing a chant used when Mexico’s national soccer team wins a match.
Similar celebrations were held across Mexico from the presidential palace to ramshackle villages that emit emigrant workers.
Divided by a bloody drug war and harsh recession, Mexicans had been temporarily united against the Arizona law, which they saw as knife in the gut of their paisanos over the border.
The law — which took effect in its altered form Thursday — had been condemned by everyone from robed clerics in the gold-covered pulpit of the Metropolitan Cathedral to long-haired rock singers in a special concert against the law in Mexico City’s central square.
Politicians of all stripes, television stars and newspaper columnists had all railed against the legislation, which they said was “fascistic,” “authoritarian” and “racist.”
Known as SB1070, the law had required immigrants to carry papers with them at all times and called for the local police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.
It also banned workers from soliciting employment on street corners and imposed fines for any Americans picking day laborers up.
Arizona politicians say the law was needed because the federal government has failed to stop undocumented immigrants from pouring over the border from Mexico into the state.
But Judge Bolton temporarily blocked these controversial sections with a preliminary injunction saying they would put an “extraordinary burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
Mexico’s foreign department had lobbied against the law in Washington and filed its own suits against it.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa hailed Bolton’s decision as “the first step in the correct direction.”
“The Mexican government recognizes the determination shown by the federal government of the United States and the actions of civil organizations that filed suits against SB1070,” Espinosa told a news conference.
She said that Mexico would continue campaigning to have the law thrown out completely, while its consulate officials would operate special mobile points to give advice to Mexicans in Arizona about the regulations.
“The Mexican government will strengthen actions to prevent the violations of immigrant rights and give consular protection in any cases where our citizens have their rights violated,” she said.
About half of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States were born in Mexico.
Last year, Mexicans in the United States sent home $21.2 billion in remittances, providing the nation with its second biggest source of foreign currency after oil exports.
The Arizona law was also opposed across Latin America and other leaders, including the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador all celebrated Judge Bolton’s decision.
Jose Miguel Insulza, the President of the Organization of American States, also commended the ruling.
“It is not my job to comment on the decisions of national courts, but I have always said that it doesn’t seem fair to me to criminalize people who are looking for a better life,” said Insulza, who is Chilean.
“I hope that in the coming months we can see proposals that would help resolve this serious problem.”
On the streets, Martha Sanchez, of the Meso-American Migrant Movement joined activists in victory chants.
However, she said there was still concern about the brewing anti-immigrant movement in the United States that led to the law.
“The hatred that has woken up is not finished with,” Sanchez said.
Luis Angel Nieto, director of a migrant rights group called Our Links of Blood said that the United States has been unjust in refusing to legalize many Mexican workers who have been in the United States for decades.
“How is it possible that the cockerels in California have more rights than our migrant brothers?” he said.