Obama and Calderon Pledge Cooperation - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Obama and Calderon Pledge Cooperation

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a showy display of solidarity, President Barack Obama welcomed Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the White House on Wednesday and pledged cooperation on immigration, a violent drug war and economic struggles on both sides of the border.

Looming over Calderon's state visit is Arizona's controversial immigration law, which makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. Facing pressure at home, Calderon took on the law directly Wednesday, saying it encourages discrimination. He called for the U.S. and Mexico to work together to solve the complex, politically sensitive immigration issue.

"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 heralding the start of his visit. "We can do so with a community that will promote a dignified life in an orderly way for both our countries."

Obama has called the law "misguided" and asked the Justice Department to review it.

Sprinkling in bit of Spanish, Obama went to great lengths to greet Calderon, who is fighting an escalating, bloody battle against drug cartels in his country and facing pressure to get results on immigration reform. Around the White House grounds, Mexican and U.S. flags flew together, while cheering school children and military in their finest dress uniforms gathered on the South Lawn to embrace the pageantry.

 "I say to you and to the Mexican people: Let us stand together," Obama said Wednesday morning.

A senior administration official said Obama will reiterate his commitment to fixing the nation's immigration system during his private meetings with Calderon. The official also said the administration plans to address security along the U.S.-Mexico border and build on work done this year to open new border crossings and invest in the modernization of existing crossings. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely ahead of the meetings.

The two leaders will hold a joint news conference later in the day and an elaborate state dinner Wednesday night.

Obama and Calderon have met nearly a dozen times since Obama took office, including a meeting in April 2009 in Mexico City and a North American leaders' summit in Guadalajara in August. First lady Michelle Obama also has formed a friendship with Mexico's first lady, Margarita Zavala, who visited 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 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.

The U.S. 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.

Other issues expected to be on the agenda include:

- Climate change. Calderon has worked to make Mexico a global leader on the issue. His country hosts the next round of international climate negotiations in December in Cancun.

-The economy. The White House expects both sides to come away from Wednesday's meetings with a number of concrete announcements about the ways in which both governments can work together to enhance economic competitiveness.

 - Cross-boarder trucking. Calderon is likely to raise the issue of Mexican trucks being denied access to the United States as a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The administration official said Obama will reaffirm his commitment to working with Calderon and Congress to address the concerns.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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