U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón met on Wednesday.
Latin America: Week in Review, Mexico, United States

Obama and Calderón Meet at White House to Discuss Immigration and Drug War

May 20, 2010 By Staff
U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón met on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón met on Wednesday.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Mexican President Felipe Calderón met with President Barack Obama Wednesday at the White House to discuss bilateral issues such as illegal immigration in Arizona and the surge of drug violence along the countries’ shared border.

During a press conference in the Rose Garden, both Obama and Calderón criticized the new Arizona law that gives police officers more latitude to stop people on the suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants.

“I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law,” Obama said, according to the New York Times. “We’re examining any implications, especially for civil rights, because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person, be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico, should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like.”

Calderón said that many Mexicans now feel discriminated against in Arizona.  Mexico “will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals. And we oppose firmly the SB-1070 Arizona law, given unfair principles that are partial and discriminatory,” he said, according to the New York Times.

Obama also reaffirmed his support for Calderón’s assault on drug cartels operating in Mexico and said the United States would give Mexico all the support it needs to prevail in the war. The Obama administration has followed through on the $1.4 billion aid package known as the Merida Initiative pledged by former President George W. Bush and has promised to help curb drug consumption in the U.S. as well as the flow of illegal firearms into Mexico.

However, human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch worry that Calderón’s military-heavy emphasis on combating the cartels puts civilians at risk as complaints of abuses by soldiers have significantly increased in the past few years.

“I don’t think, nor do I want, that the federal police or the army should be doing the police work in the communities, but if they are doing so it’s because there is not even a functioning local police force,” Calderón said, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. ” Our presence is temporary, aimed at creating some breathing space for local authorities to build their own authority and its own police force.”

Obama greeted Calderón during a ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn, followed by meetings in the West Wing during the day and in the evening there was a State Dinner at the White House. The State Dinner was only the second of Obama’s presidency; the first given last November for the visiting prime minister of India became infamous for the gatecrashers who made their way past the Secret Service.

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