Senator Ellis on Supreme Court decision in Medellin v. Texas
In the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Medellin v. Texas, the Supreme Court decided that Texas was under no obligation to follow a decision of the World Court to review and reconsider the conviction and sentencing of Mexican national Jose Ernesto Medellin even though the Mexican consulate was not notified of his arrest and charging in the 1993 murders of two girls in Houston. The World Court had determined in 2004, that the Mexican government, through their consulates in the United States, should have been notified when Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals (who were on death row in several states)were originally arrested, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty obligation of the United States.
The Court also found that the President of the United States had no constitutional basis in attempting to rectify the situation by requiring remedial action directed at state courts to review and reconsider the convictions of all of the Mexican nationals implicated by the World Court decision. The decision is a retreat from several important policies having to do with international law obligations and the states of our federal union.
The decision is unfortunate on many levels. First, as a state official, I believe that it is inappropriate for state government to undermine the obligations of the federal government in matters of United States foreign policy. If state courts here in Texas had followed the President's instruction, the damage to our nation's obligations in international law would have been partially remedied.
In addition there is a significant concern for the basic and practical issue of accommodating the consulates of foreign countries that are based in Texas. Making sure that a foreign national arrested in Texas has an opportunity to receive assistance from his or her nation's consulate is one way to measure the importance of the principle outlined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Furthermore, that principle is an especially important one to Texans living, working and visiting abroad. Showing regard for the foreign nationals in the United States under our treaty obligations serves to protect Texans and other American citizens by ensuring that any detention or arrest is followed by contact with a local United States consulate so that legal assistance and other moral support can be provided. The Supreme Court's decision makes those kinds of assurances harder to establish.
However, Texas can make sure that its responsibilities are fulfilled in the future. In 2005, I along with Senator Leticia van de Putte from San Antonio, proposed legislation that would have established state law requiring law enforcement officials to notify local consulates when any of their nationals are arrested in Texas. This legislation did not pass and it should have. It was then, and is now clearly the right thing to do because our nation has promised to do so, because of Texans living and visiting abroad, and because of the positive relations we seek to continue with our neighbors in other countries. When I leave for my trade mission to the Middle East in a few days, I will expect no less as an American citizen and a Texan. Accordingly, I plan to re-propose this legislation during the next legislative session in 2009.