(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) said last week that Mexican President Felipe Calderon had been “right on” in criticizing Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law.
CNSNews.com asked Kennedy (D-R.I.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs, for his thoughts on the criticisms Calderon made of the Arizona law while in Washington, D.C. last week.
“Well, he’s right on,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com. “I mean, it violates the spirit of our own Constitution.
"So, you know, we had a tragic history in this country," said Kennedy. "The most shameful parts of our history were when we had our slave trade, when we, when we, the Trail of Tears--what we did to our Native Americans. And, you know, the proudest moments in our history are when we had the Civil Rights Act, when we moved forward on integration and expanding the opportunities for all of our citizens.
"So, this idea of, you know, racial profiling, takes us backwards and really goes to the worst character of our nation and it’s, it’s demeaning to our country that we would move in that direction," said Kennedy. "It’s beneath us as a people.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNSNews.com that Mexican President Felipe Calderon was wrong to criticize Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, adding that Calderon had also “mischaracterized the law.”
Moments after Calderon spoke from the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, CNSNews.com asked Sessions, “Do you think it was wrong for President Calderon to criticize the Arizona law?”
Sessions, a member of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, said, “Well yes. I thought he was in error about it. If he thought, if some of the things he said were true, I would be more sympathetic, but I think he mischaracterized the law.”
In answering a reporter’s question about Calderon criticizing the new law against illegal immigration, Sessions defended the measure from claims by Calderon and President Barack Obama that the law permits racial profiling.
“He [Calderon] said this was racial profiling. I don’t believe that is. In fact, the statue explicitly says they cannot use racial profiling,” Sessions said.
“He and President Obama are incorrect in their fundamental analysis,” said Sessions.
Nevertheless, Sessions praised Calderon’s efforts to bolster his country’s economy and shore up efforts to combat the drug cartel violence.
CNSNews.com spoke to Sessions and Kennedy at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday after Calderon delivered his remarks from the House chamber.
While acknowledging respect for America’s “legitimate right to establish in accordance to its Constitution whatever laws it approves,” Calderon had criticized the Arizona law on Wednesday during a press conference with President Obama at the White House Rose Garden.
Calderon said, “We will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals. And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given in fair principles that are partial and discriminatory.”
Standing next to Calderon, Obama echoed the Mexican president’s assessment of the law, saying, “I think the Arizona law has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”
However, Obama acknowledged that the Arizona law stemmed from the federal government’s shortcomings in dealing with a “broken immigration system.”
Obama also stressed that his administration may challenge the Arizona law in court.
“And I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law,” said Obama. “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.”
In speaking at the Capitol on Thursday, President Calderon said, "I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona. It is a law, it is a law that not only ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree but also introduce a terrible idea using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”
Many Democratic members of Congress, including the speaker of the House, applauded strongly in favor of Calderon’s comments while most Republicans in the chamber did not applaud the criticisms of the Arizona law.
Calderon also called on U.S. lawmakers to overhaul America’s immigration laws, saying, "The time has come to reduce the causes of migration and to turn this phenomenon into a legal, ordered and secure flow of workers and visitors.”
The revised Arizona law explicitly prohibits racial profiling. According to the law, a person’s immigration status can be checked only if an individual is stopped for a different reason.
“A lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state,” states the revised law.
On May 20, CNSNews.com reported, “Mexican immigration law, revised in 2009, gives Mexican officials the right to check people’s immigration status, and if someone is found to be in the country illegally, they can be fined and deported. The law also requires foreigners to register with the government.”
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) and Rep. Kennedy (D-R.I.) follows below:
CNSNews.com: “Do you think it was wrong for President Calderon to criticize the Arizona law?”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): “Well yes. I thought he was in error about it. If he thought if some of the things he said were true, I would be more sympathetic, but I think he mischaracterized the law.”
CNSNews.com: “What is your reaction to the [Mexican] president criticizing the Arizona law?”
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.): “Well he’s right on. I mean, it violates the spirit of our own Constitution. So, you know, we had a tragic history in this country. The most shameful parts of our history were when we had our slave trade, when we, when we, the Trail of Tears -- what we did to our Native Americans. And, you know, the proudest moments in our history are when we had the Civil Rights Act, when we moved forward on integration and expanding the opportunities for all of our citizens. So, this idea of, you know, racial profiling, takes us backwards and really goes to the worst character of our nation and it’s, it’s demeaning to our country that we would move in that direction. It’s beneath us as a people.”