May 18, 2010 3:56 PM by Chris Welty
WASHINGTON (AP) - With the immigration debate raging in both
their countries, President Barack Obama and Mexico's Felipe
Calderon will reaffirm their commitment to comprehensive
immigration reform during the Mexican leader's state visit here
While immigration has long been a source of tension between the
U.S. and Mexico, the controversial immigration law recently enacted
in Arizona threatens to add strain to the relationship. Obama has
promised to start work on reform, but he's also warned that
lawmakers may not have the appetite to take on the sensitive issue
Calderon has vowed to push for immigration reform during his
trip to Washington. He's facing pressure from some Mexican
lawmakers to consider breaking commercial ties with Arizona, and
his government has issued a travel warning for the Arizona, warning
that migrants face an adverse political environment there.
Obama has called the Arizona law "misguided" and has asked the
Justice Department to review the law.
A senior administration official said the U.S. expects a series
of concrete steps on immigration to come out of Wednesday's
meetings that build on work done this year to open new border
crossings and invest in the modernization of existing crossings.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak
freely ahead of the meetings.
Calderon will be the second world leader to be welcomed to the
Obama White House with a state dinner. The two leaders will hold a
joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday
afternoon, followed by a formal dinner for 200 guests that evening.
Obama's first state dinner was held in honor of India's prime
minister in November.
Obama and Calderon have met nearly a dozen times since Obama
took office, including a meeting last April in Mexico City and a
North American leaders summit in Guadalajara in August. First Lady
Michelle Obama has also formed a friendship with Mexico's first
lady Margarita Zavala, who visisted the White House in February.
Mrs. Obama visited Zavala in Mexico City last month on her first
solo trip abroad as first lady.
Obama and Calderon are also expected to discuss the ongoing drug
violence that has affected both sides of the border. More than
22,700 people have been killed since Calderon deployed tens of
thousands of troops and federal police across the country in
December 2006 in an offensive against drug traffickers.
Washington has been a strong supporter of the offensive,
providing training and equipment under the $1.3 billion Merida
Initiative. The Obama administration has earned praise from Mexico
for repeatedly acknowledging that U.S. drug consumption is a large
part of the problem.
Also expected to be on the agenda Wednesday are climate change
and the economy. Calderon has worked to make Mexico a global leader
on climate change, and his country will host the next round of
international climate negotiations in December in Cancun.
The administration official also said Tuesday that both sides
expect to come away from the meetings with a number of concrete
announcements about the ways in which both governments can work
together to enhance economic competitiveness.