President Obama and President Calderón of Mexico held a joint press availability this afternoon ahead of the State Dinner to discuss the many issues that naturally draw such close neighbors into common interest. President Obama talked about the “highest economic priority” of both nations to create jobs for their people, including clean energy jobs, and increasing competitiveness in the global economy. He also discussed their commitment to common security, specifically standing together against drug cartels, stating that “Mexico can count on the United States as a full partner in this effort.”
President Obama also talked about responsibilities that both countries have towards fixing the current broken immigration system, including securing the borders, holding businesses accountable for exploiting workers, and holding illegal immigrants accountable for paying taxes and fines before they earn their citizenship. Both presidents commented on the new immigration law in Arizona, which President Obama called “a misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system.” He explained that if the country can pass comprehensive immigration reform, we will be less likely to see the kinds of measures as they saw in Arizona:
Today, I want every American to know my administration has devoted unprecedented resources in personnel and technology to securing our border. Illegal immigration is down, not up, and we will continue to do what’s necessary to secure our shared border.
And I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law. 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.
President Calderón also touched upon the Arizona law, and called for a “comprehensive solution that will be respectful of the rights of the individual.” President Obama explained that he will work with Congress and the Mexican government to pass comprehensive immigration reform, calling for support from the opposite side of the political party as well.
The political challenge is, is that I have confidence that I can get the majority of Democrats, both in the House and the Senate, to support a piece of legislation of the sort that I just described. But I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. I’ve got to have some support from Republicans. When we made an effort of this sort a few years ago, it was under the leadership of John McCain and Ted Kennedy. And because there was a bipartisan effort, we were actually able to generate a majority of votes in the Senate. And we just missed being able to get it done in the House.
If we can re-create that atmosphere -- I don't expect to get every Republican vote, but I need some help in order to get it done. And there have been people who have expressed an interest. But if they're willing to come forward and get a working group and get this moving, I’m actually confident that we can get it done. And the American people -- including the people of Arizona -- are going to prefer that the federal government takes responsibility and does what it’s supposed to do.