U.S.-Mexico Talks Focus on Immigration, Drug Violence

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

At a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, while denouncing Arizona's new immigration law.

Arizona's controversial immigration law, which makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally, has been a bone of contention for Mexico. At the press conference which heralded the state visit on Wednesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon criticized the policy, saying the U.S. and Mexico needed to work together to solve the complex issue of immigration.

"We can do so if we create a safer border, a border that will unite us instead of dividing us, uniting our people," Calderon said in a South Lawn ceremony. "We can do so with a community that will promote a dignified life in an orderly way for both our countries."

President Obama called Arizona's new state law a "misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system." He said he has directed the Justice Department to review the language of the law to check whether it represented U.S. "core values".

Drug violence on the U.S.-Mexican border is also high on the agenda for the bilateral meeting. According to the Associated Press, more than 22,700 people have been killed since December 2006, when Calderon deployed tens of thousands of troops and federal police across the country in an offensive against drug traffickers. The U.S. has supported the offensive, providing $1.3 billion in training and equipment under the Merida Initiative.

The two leaders are also scheduled to discuss trade relations. Trade between Mexico and the U.S. surpasses $1 billion a day. More than 80 percent of Mexico's exports are sent to the U.S., according to Reuters.

The state visit marks the fourth time the two presidents have met for bilateral talks. A formal state dinner will be held in honor of Calderon at the White House Wednesday, making it only the second formal state dinner held since President Obama took office.

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