WASHINGTON--The reluctance of the U.S. Congress and the Obama White House to move on immigration reform -- and the controversial Arizona law -- plus cross-border drug war violence will be on the agenda during a two-day visit by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala.
President Obama and first lady Michelle host a State Dinner tonight for Calderon and Mrs. Zavala -- the couples both have young children and both women are lawyers who gave up careers when their husbands became president. Mrs. Obama dined at Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence, last month during her swing through Mexico City.
The U.S.-Mexico relationship is close, but the new Arizona state law -- where state law enforcement could demand that people produce papers (already opposed by Obama and Calderon) -- raises the question of how and when Calderon will deliver an Arizona rebuke. Calderon is under some domestic political pressure to say something while here, but I am told he does not want to make Arizona the highlight of his visit -- there are many other other issues on the agenda.
Calderon has two prime opportunities. Obama and Calderon hold a press conference today, and Thursday Calderon addresses a joint session of Congress. Obama and Calderon held a joint press conference on April 16, 2009, at Los Pinos. Calderon said then, "This is an historic event that will inaugurate a new era, a new relationship between our two countries."
During a Tuesday briefing, a White House official who would not allow his name to be used said the U.S. fully expects Calderon to speak out on Arizona, "to also discuss his views, as he has been doing in public, on recent developments, be it the Arizona immigration law and more generally the issue of immigration and efforts in Mexico [and] his efforts in Mexico to create the kind of economic opportunity that allows Mexicans to live out their dreams in their country of origin."
Among the agenda items:
* Drug wars. U.S. consumption of drugs and feuding Mexican drug cartels are fueling the cross-border drug war, and getting use down is a major bilateral issue. Mexico blames U.S. guns ending up in Mexico and U.S. drug demand. On May 11, the Obama White House released its long- awaited drug-fighting stategy with the goal: "a 15-percent reduction in the rate of youth drug use over five years." In March, top Obama Cabinet officials--led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--were in Mexico City to discuss the escalating cross- border violence.
* Energy. "I think you'll see a number of concrete deliverables in -- on each of -- on energy cooperation and on clean- energy cooperation," the White House official said.
* Border infrastructure. The Sun-Times has learned that the Obama White House will annunce three new border bridge projects to allow faster border crossings.
* Trade and a long standing issue about Mexican trucks being allowed entry to the U.S.