WASHINGTON — Confronting soaring frustration over illegal immigration, President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned Arizona's crackdown and pushed instead for a federal fix the nation could embrace. He said that will never happen without Republican support, pleading: "I need some help."
In asking anew for an immigration overhaul, Obama showed solidarity with his guest of honor, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who called Arizona's law discriminatory and warned Mexico would reject any effort to "criminalize migration." The United States and Mexico share a significant economic and political relationship that stands to be damaged the more the nations are at odds over immigration, which affects millions of people on both sides of the border.
The Arizona law requires police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally, and it makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally.
"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," Obama said.
Calderon was upbeat about the chance of finding a fair, dignified way of dealing with migrants. He added: "Many of them, despite their significant contribution to the economy and to the society of the United States, still live in the shadows, and occasionally, as in Arizona, they even face discrimination."
Obama's plan for an immigration overhaul calls for improving border security, ensuring employers are held accountable if they try to hire undocumented workers or break other laws, and assigning a series of responsibilities on the millions of people living in the United States illegally. Those include requiring them to pay a penalty and back taxes, learn English and get in line toward becoming a legal resident and citizen of the country.
Calderon will have a chance to make his case directly to U.S. lawmakers today during an address to Congress.