Leahy decries access to consular aid after execution in Texas

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee vowed to make foreigners' access to aid from their governments a "high priority" after Texas executed a Mexican citizen, sparking a diplomatic row with Mexico.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in an email decried the “failure” of the U.S. to live up to its international treaty obligations after Edgar Tamayo Arias was put to death for the killing of a Houston police officer.

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Arias was not offered access to assistance from his consulate at the time of his arrest 20 years ago, sparking a rebuke from the United Nations International Court of Justice and worries that Americans abroad could be at risk.

Leahy fought for better consular access in the last Congress and vowed to continue doing so.

“This remains a high priority for Senator Leahy because our failure to meet our obligations under the treaty puts Americans at risk when they work, travel or live overseas,” a Leahy spokesman told The Hill. “Many in Congress – probably most members of Congress – know how wrenching and worrisome it is to get calls from their constituents overseas when they suddenly need help from U.S. consulates. He agrees that doing nothing is not an option and that we must find a way to solve the problem. He will continue to look for the best approach in solving it.”

Leahy introduced legislation in the last Congress that would give federal courts jurisdiction to review cases of death row inmates who were not afforded access to their country of origin’s consulate after their arrest. The bill failed to gain a single co-sponsor and died in committee.

Secretary of State John Kerry personally wrote to Texas Gov. Rick Perry last year to request a stay, to no avail.

“It doesn't matter where you're from," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nash told The Associated Press. "If you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas, you are subject to our state laws, including a fair trial by jury and the ultimate penalty."

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