In a letter sent to President Ernest Zedillo today, Human Rights Watch strongly criticized Mexico's arbitrary expulsion of foreigners. The letter noted that Mexico uses the term "involvement in internal political affairs" to define unacceptable behavior for foreigners -- a definition that goes well beyond the limits of international law.

"The only way to make that definition work is by applying political criteria abitrarily," said Joel Solomon, title of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. "That would likely violate internationally recognized human rights obligations that are binding on Mexico."

At the same time, Human Rights Watch expressed deep concern over new visa restrictions on foreign human rights monitors, as reported in the Mexican and U.S. press. "We believe these requirements would be onerous and potentially dangerous for human rights victims and witnesses, and may serve to undermine the ability of Mexican human rights monitors to interact with their international colleagues," the letter to President Zedillo said. "Taken together, these restrictions appear to have been designed to limit human rights monitoring in Mexico and to give the government arbitrary authority to determine which human rights organizations are or are not legitimate."

The human rights organization recognized the Mexican government's right to regulate immigration to Mexico, but urged authorities not to review the actions of foreigners through the lens of vague political criteria. The letter also urged officials not to implement the new visa restrictions: "Instead, we encourage the government to establish a clear mechanism for providing visas to human rights monitors, and that this mechanism not impede human rights work by foreigners in Mexico."