By Sam Youngman - 05/19/10 05:04 PM EDT
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he can corral Democratic support for the Senate immigration proposal, but Republicans will have to sign on to pass a bill.
joined in the White House Rose Garden by Mexican President Felipe
Calderon, endorsed the proposal put forth by Sens. Lindsey Graham
(R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), saying “it can and should move
“I’ve got to have some support from Republicans,” Obama said, calling that prospect “politically challenging.”
president referred to attempts to pass immigration reform legislation
in 2006, spearheaded by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.). He said he wants to see the Senate “re-create
“I don’t expect every Republican vote, but I need some help in order to get it done,” Obama said
immigration issue has been a focal point of Calderon’s U.S. visit,
which included a state dinner Wednesday evening. The Mexican president
wasted little time in addressing the issue, criticizing a controversial
new immigration law in Arizona at his welcoming ceremony Wednesday
At Wednesday afternoon’s appearance before the
press, Obama joined Calderon in voicing opposition to the Arizona law,
saying it “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory
The president said he is awaiting the results of a
Justice Department review of the law before deciding how to address it.
The department has suggested it might mount a legal challenge to the
law, which compels state authorities to check the status of anyone they
suspect is in the country illegally.
“The judgments that are going to be made in applying this law are troublesome,” Obama said
the president said, the “misdirected” effort by Arizona lawmakers is
the result of frustrations felt by states as the federal government has
failed to address the issue.
“I’m sympathetic to those frustrations,” Obama said. “I share those frustrations.”
noted twice that illegal immigration is down at the U.S.-Mexican
border, saying, “I know that’s not the perception out there, but that’s
“But we haven’t done enough.”
he supports legislation that would hold illegal immigrants — and the
businesses that employ them — accountable, requiring the former to,
among other things, learn English and get at the back of the line to
“That kind of package, in which everybody has responsibilities, I think can pass,” Obama said.
Calderon acknowledged Obama’s commitment to passing immigration reform, but he repeatedly bashed the Arizona law.
said Mexicans “oppose firmly” the Arizona law, which he said contains
“unfair principles that are partial and discriminatory.”
Mexico, we are and will continue being respectful of the internal
policies of the United States and its legitimate right to establish, in
accordance to its Constitution, whatever laws it approves,” Calderon
said. “But we will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration
so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be
treated as criminals.
Obama also discussed trade policies the
U.S. shares with Mexico, saying that with more than 80 percent of the
two countries’ trade occurring by land, a “21st-century border” must be
“an engine, and not a brake, on our economic growth.
directly mentioning the trucking dispute between the two countries,
Calderon did say he and Obama discussed the “relevance of solving our
differences and trade problems in the fastest possible way.” A ban on
Mexican trucks on U.S. highways prompted Mexico to impose steep tariffs
on certain U.S. imports.
“I can highlight here that the areas where we agree are broader than our differences,” Calderon said. “There is a broad convergence of interests. And this is not only given to the fact that we share common goals, but there is a will of both of us to turn the fact of being neighbors into partnerships that will act as a leveler for shared development.”