Mexican President Felipe Calderon took the unusual step Wednesday morning of criticizing an American law while visiting the White House, saying cooperation is needed to fix the US-Mexican immigration issue but "such laws as the Arizona law that is forcing our people to face discrimination. If we are divided, we cannot overcome these problems."
President Obama welcomed Calderon and Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala this morning with a hearty, “bienvenidos” during a ceremony on the South Lawn marking the start of a full day’s worth of events culminating in a formal state dinner this evening, President Obama’s second.
The Arizona law has not yet taken effect, but the president has voiced repeated opposition to it and Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is looking into how it will be implemented to ensure against racial profiling, though last week Holder told a congressional committee that he had not yet read the law. (A Justice Department spokesman later said that Holder had been “thoroughly briefed” on the law, which has since been amended.)
President Obama did not specifically mention his opposition to the Arizona law, though White House officials say it will be a topic of discussion during the two leaders closed-door meetings throughout the day at the White House.
“Mexican-American families have been here for centuries,” President Obama said, noting “our proud tradition as a nation of immigrants, all of whom strengthen our American family and who join us today. Working together, we have built upon these bridges. We've forged a new era of cooperation and partnership between our countries based on mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual responsibility.”
The Mexican President said a safer border needs to be created but one that unites, instead of divides. He spoke in Spanish; the translation was provided by the White House.
With a nod to President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan, President Calderon, speaking in English closed on an optimistic note.
“Can we build that future of prosperity we want for our people? Yes, we can, if we work together.”
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller