As Mexican President Felipe visited Washington this week, immigration policy was high on his order of business. He made it known, upon arriving at the White House, that he opposes Arizona's new law, and he offered an extended critique during an appearance with President Obama Wednesday afternoon.
Today, he addressed a joint session of Congress, as the first foreign leader to do so this year. He criticized Arizona's law again, and he continued his call for federal immigration reform. Here's what he said (as transcribed, by me, during his speech--hence an ellipse and one missing word toward the end):
For us, migration is not just your problem: we see migration as our problem as well. My government does not favor the breaking of the rules. I fully respect the right of any country to enact and enforce its own laws, but what we need today is to fix a broken and unefficient system. We favor the establishment of laws that work and work well for us all. The time has come to reduce the causes of migration and to turn this phenomenon into a legal, orderly and secure flow of workers and visitors. We want to provide the Mexican people with the opportunities that they are looking for. That is our goal, that is our mission as a government--to transform Mexico into a land of opportunities, to provide to our people with jobs and opportunities to live in peace and to be happy.
I want to recognize the hard work and leadership of many of you in the Senate and in the House, and that of President Obama, who are determined to find responsible and objective answers to this issue. I am convinced that comprehensive immigration reform is also crucial to securing our common border. However, I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona. It is a law that not only ignores the reality that cannot be erases by decree, but also introduces a terrible idea--using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement--and that is why I agree with the president to say they new law carries a great amount of risk when core values that we all care about are breached.
I don't want to deep [sic] the gap between the feeling and emotions between our countries and...peoples. I believe in bridge [sic], I believe in commitment, I believe in cooperation, and we must [find?] together a better way to face and fix this common problem. And finally, the well being of both our peoples depends not only on our ability to face regional challenges but global ones as well. That is the case of climate change...
Calderon was less aggressive with the Arizona law, compared to his White House appearance. Yesterday, and he said far less about it. After an extended critique at the White House yesterday, in which he called the law "discriminatory," we only heard a few sentences about Arizona, specifically, in his speech to Congress.
The Mexican president didn't call Arizona's law "discriminatory" this time; chose instead to echo President Obama. When Obama was asked yesterday if he agreed with Calderon that Arizona's law is "discriminatory," Obama didn't go that far, instead saying it carries the potential for discrimination. Hence Calderon's reference to Obama's sentiment that Arizona's law "carries the risk." His mention of "core values" came after Obama said his Justice Dept. is reviewing the law in light of "core values" yesterday.
Congress, as Calderon knows, is where federal immigration reform must happen. Politically, the onus is now on Congress to solve the controversy over Arizona. While DoJ is reviewing the bill, and while a coalition of interest groups has taken up a legal challenge, most politicians are saying Congress must pass federal immigration reform for the situation in Arizona, really, to change. That's what Obama told Calderon yesterday, in their public appearance: "I don't have 60 votes in the Senate," Obama said.
So perhaps we could have expected a more impassioned pitch from the Mexican president. But Congress can be a dangerous political environment: Republican House members, as much as they like free trade with Mexico, typically wouldn't react well to a foreign leader criticizing U.S. laws in the U.S. Capitol. Calderon wouldn't want to risk a Joe Wilson moment. So he played it slightly cool, registering his complaint formally in this formal setting.
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is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic
and a reporter for The Hill