HAVANA — Cuban lawmakers have passed a resolution denouncing Arizona’s new immigration law as “racist and xenophobic,” recalling an old dispute in the process: the argument that the United States’ purchase of Arizona from Mexico in the 19th century was tantamount to theft.
The Arizona law has caused controversy since it was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23. It requires police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.
Several U.S. cities including Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and Austin, Texas, have passed resolutions against the law or urged outright boycotts, and President Barack Obama has denounced it as “a misdirected expression of frustration.”
But the denunciation of the law by Cuban lawmakers, who called it a “brutal violation of human rights,” is sure to raise anger among U.S. backers of the law.
The tightly controlled, communist-run island has long been criticized for its human rights record, which includes the jailing of 200 political prisoners, the banning of a free press and the outlawing of opposition political parties.
Cuban citizens are required to carry identification with them wherever they go, and can be stopped by police and sent home if they are found in a part of the island where they don’t belong.
Havana bristles at criticism of its human rights record, saying its system provides deep food and housing subsidies, as well as free health care and education to all citizens, while capitalist countries are in the thrall of powerful corporations. It considers the dissidents to be paid mercenaries of Washington.
The lawmakers’ resolution, dated last Wednesday and reprinted in the Communist Party daily Granma last Thursday, says the Arizona law “has a profound racist and xenophobic character, and permits police to use racial profiling.”
The Cuban parliamentarians note that many American leaders oppose the law, but said they feared similar measures would be adopted elsewhere, “spreading like a plague across North American territory.”
The lawmakers said the Arizona measure “aims to close the doors on immigrants to territories that were stolen by force from the noble Mexican people.”
Mexico was forced to sell most of the territory that is now Arizona to the United States in 1848 following its defeat in the Mexican-American war. Arizona became the 48th state admitted to the union in 1912, the final area of the continental United States to attain statehood. Only Alaska and Hawaii became states more recently.
Cuba and the United States have been at odds since shortly after Castro’s rebel forces ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year’s Day 1959, and the United States has maintained a trade embargo on the island for 48 years.
Cuban citizens are treated differently from other immigrants seeking a new home in the United States. Under America’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, any Cuban who reaches U.S. soil is automatically granted asylum. Those interdicted at sea are sent home