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Arizona immigration law: Will it hurt Mexico's drug war, as US lawsuit says?

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The Arizona law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state. It also requires police to determine the immigration status of a person stopped for other infractions when there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is an undocumented migrant.

IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border

While immigrant and human rights groups also expressed content with the Justice Department's case against Arizona, some ordinary Mexicans and academics were not enamored. They saw the suit as mere pre-election maneuvering for the Hispanic vote while a more politically costly immigration reform stalls indefinitely.

“Immigration is not one of [Obama]’s priorities next to the recession or the elections,” says Pedro Isnardo, presidential policy analyst at the UNAM university in Mexico City. “Although he is not minimizing immigration he is now giving it legal attention because he knows he doesn’t have greater influence in other realms.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Obama’s urgent request to Congress last week to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Some security experts in Mexico also said that an argument in the federal lawsuit claiming the Arizona law will undermine the drug war by diverting resources away from targeting “drug smuggling and gang activity” misses the point.

“The priority has always been going after big [criminal] groups. But without discussing prevention, the [drug] problem will continue for years to come,” says Jose Maria Ramos, public security expert at the College of the Northern Border in Tijuana (COLEF).

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