Border security talks wrap with Obama pointing to issues with Ariz. law

The Obamas host Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his wife, Margarita Zavala, for a state dinner.
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post staff writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010; 2:20 PM

President Obama declared anew his anxiety about Arizona's immigration law Wednesday, saying it has the potential to be "discriminatory" and promising that results from a Justice Department review will be made public soon.

"It gives the possibility of individuals who are deemed suspicious of being illegal immigrant of being harassed or arrested," Obama said during a Rose Garden news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. "The judgments that are going to be made in applying this law are troubling."

Calderón said he told Obama that his country will "retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration" and that his government will "oppose firmly" the application of the new state measure to law-abiding citizens in the United States.

The comments came after the two leaders finished a morning of meetings at which they said border security was a key topic, and before an official state dinner aimed at celebrating the relationship between the two countries.

Both men said in brief remarks that their conversations focused on the economic opportunities but also on the security challenges along the border posed by that physical closeness.

In his comments, Calderón said the "areas where we agree are broader than our differences." He said the meetings with Obama were characterized by "broad and fruitful dialogue."

Obama took only one question from an American journalist, and was not asked about the results of primary elections in four states Tuesday. Obama ignored a shouted question about the election as he and Calderón walked back to the Oval Office.

Asked about immigration reform legislation, Obama repeated his support for a comprehensive bill the assigns responsibility to the government, businesses that employ illegal immigrants and the immigrants themselves. But he said progress in Congress will be slow without cooperation from Republicans.

Giving credit to his 2008 opponent, Obama said comprehensive immigration changes almost passed several years ago with the help of Arizona Sen. John McCain (R). But he said the political environment appears to have changed.

"I don't have 60 votes in the Senate," Obama said, noting a legislative proposal that was recently unveiled in the Senate. "I don't expect to get every Republican vote. But I need some help to get this done."

Calderón did not take any questions. In comments earlier in the morning, he said the United States and Mexico face a choice between moving forward or returning to "mutual recrimination, which has been so useless and so damaging in previous times."

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