Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Mexican President Felipe Calderon thanked members of Congress on Thursday for their support for Mexico "through very challenging times," but he also challenged them to pass comprehensive immigration reform and to reinstate the American ban on assault weapons, two steps he said would stem the cross-border migration and violence that Calderon admitted are hurting both counties.
The Mexican leader also renewed his criticism of Arizona's recently passed immigration law, which he told lawmakers "introduces the terrible idea that racial profiling is a basis for law enforcement."
Calderon's address to a joint session of Congress followed a full day of pomp and ceremony in Washington, which included an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn, joint remarks to the press with President Obama, and a glittering state dinner that featured diplomats, congressional leaders and Hollywood celebrities.
But as Calderon spoke to the assembled members of the House and Senate Thursday, he described a country struggling to overcome obstacles of poverty, organized crime and corruption. Since taking office in 2006, Calderon's presidency has been defined by an aggressive fight against the country's powerful drug traffickers and the gruesome violence that has followed the police crackdown.
He told lawmakers he is fighting crime and reforming the country's banking, health care and education systems with the primary goal of keeping Mexicans, who often seek a better life in the United States, from leaving their country.
"For us, migration is not just your problem. We see migration as our problem as well," he said. "Today, we are doing the best we can do to reduce migration, to create jobs for Mexicans in our own country, where their homes are and where their families are."