Today President Obama held a joint press availability at the White House with Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderon. Naturally, the prime topic was immigration. Here is part of what Obama had to say:
We also discussed the new law in Arizona, which is a misdirected effort, a misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system, which has raised concerns in both our countries. …
And I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law. We’re examining any implications, especially for civil rights. Because in the United States of America no law-abiding person, be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant or a visitor or tourist from Mexico, should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like.
Under the Arizona law, a person may not be subject to police action “simply because of what they [sic] look like.” But I don’t know about suspicion. Arizona has a huge problem with illegal immigration, and substantially all of the illegals are from Latin America, the vast majority from Mexico. If many people suspect that those around them who appear to be Mexican might be illegals, maybe we should blame the 12 million or so Mexicans who are, in fact, illegals, rather than accusing the people of Arizona of bigotry.
Calderon’s comments, while they may have lost something in translation, appear to reject the distinction between legal and illegal immigration:
In reference to the migratory issue, I acknowledge the sensitivity and the commitment of President Obama to look for a comprehensive solution that will be respectful of the rights of the individuals and will be adjusting itself in a realistic way to the needs of both our economies.
In 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. 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. And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given unfair principles that are partial and discriminatory.
Any government that controls its borders–like Mexico’s, for example–necessarily “criminalizes” migration that is inconsistent with its laws. Many Mexicans seem to think that the United States is the one country on earth that has no right to set an immigration policy consistent with what it perceives to be its interests. It would be nice to have confidence that our President does not share that view.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s approval rating among likely voters has been falling. Maybe it’s random variation, but I can’t think of anything Obama has done over the last couple of weeks that would cause his ratings to drop other than his repeated attacks on the people of Arizona, and, by implication, the majority of Americans who support Arizona’s effort to enforce the immigration laws. Perhaps Obama doesn’t realize that it was President Bush’s promotion of “comprehensive immigration reform” that sent his approval ratings into the deep-freeze during his second term.