By Kent Klein (VOA News) – With Mexico’s leader at his side, President Barack Obama called Arizona’s tough new law “misdirected,” and warned that it could violate civil rights.
“It gives the possibility of individuals who are deemed suspicious of being illegal immigrants from being harassed or arrested, and the judgments that are going to be made in applying this law are troublesome,” he said.
Arizona’s law makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.
Mr. Obama has directed the U.S. Justice Department to review the law for potential civil rights violations, and he said he expects a report soon.
Mr. Calderon’s government has warned Mexicans that they could face an adverse political environment if they travel to Arizona.
The Mexican president carried out his pledge to discuss the Arizona law in his Oval Office meeting with Mr. Obama
Through an interpreter, Mr. Calderon said he agreed that the border state’s law could be discriminatory.
“We will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration, so that people that work and provide things to this nation will (not) be treated as criminals,” said President. Calderon.
President Calderon said he and his U.S. counterpart will work together on immigration issues.
Mr. Obama also said Arizona’s law shows the need for federal immigration reform.
“The Arizona law, I think, expresses some of the frustrations that the American people have had in not fixing a broken immigration system, and frankly, the failures of the federal government to get this done. I am sympathetic to those frustrations. I share those frustrations,” said the president.
Mr. Obama said Congress needs to pass legislation to reform U.S. immigration laws, and that support from opposition Republicans will be needed to do it.
The president has promised to work on an immigration overhaul, but has admitted that lawmakers may be reluctant to address the issue in an election year.
The U.S. and Mexican presidents discussed other issues as well, including the economy and efforts to stem the drug violence along their border. Battles involving drug cartels in the past decade have killed tens of thousands of people in Mexico, and threatened public safety on the U.S. side.
Mr. Obama said the drug problem needs to be fought through both supply and demand.
“U.S. demand for drugs helps to drive this public safety crisis within Mexico, and so we have got an obligation not to drive the demand side of the equation,” he said.
The president said his administration has put forward a new strategy that emphasizes enforcement, prevention and treatment to reduce U.S. demand for drugs from Mexico and elsewhere.