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Posted August 10, 2009
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Obama Says Immigration Changes Must Wait Till 2010
immigration changes


President Obama with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, center, and Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, at their summit meeting in Guadalajara on Monday.



GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Flanked by his counterparts from Mexico and Canada, President Barack Obama reiterated Monday his commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform, despite his packed political agenda and the staunch opposition such a measure is likely to face.

President Obama predicted he would be successful, while acknowledging the challenges, saying, “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” He added that there would almost certainly be “demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form or pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable.”

He said he expected Congress, after working on health care, energy and financial regulation, to draft proposed immigration laws before the end of this year, and that he would begin work on getting the laws passed in 2010.

“Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No,” the president said. “But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness. And we can create a system in which you have strong border security, and an orderly process for people to come in. But we’re also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so they don’t have to live in the shadows.”

The president’s comments came during a news conference at the end of a summit meeting of North American leaders, aimed at increasing cooperation in the region on a broad range of shared problems and resolving some of the disputes that have long strained relations among three countries whose people and economies depend heavily on one another.

During their meetings, which began Sunday afternoon, President Obama, along with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada discussed climate change and clean energy, the H1N1 flu pandemic, immigration, trade and the growing threat posed by organized crime. And although it became clear in Monday’s news conference that they did not reach any new agreements, they expressed understanding for one another’s positions and vowed to keep working to resolve outstanding disputes.

President Obama offered a spirited defense of President Calderón’s efforts to stem the drug-related violence that has left nearly 4,200 people dead this year. In recent weeks, Mexico’s drug war has raised alarms among Democrats on Capitol Hill who have expressed concern that President Calderón’s heavy reliance on the Mexican military has resulted in increasing human rights abuses.

Democratic legislators have threatened to withhold dispensing a portion of the funds used to provide equipment and training to support the government’s counter-narcotics efforts. President Obama said unequivocally that he would push for America’s support to continue, adding, “the biggest, by far, violators of human rights right now are the cartels themselves that are kidnapping people, extorting people and encouraging corruption.”

President Calderón issued a passionate defense, saying, “the struggle, the battle, the fight against organized crime is precisely to preserve the human rights of Mexican people.”
If there were divisions on other issues, all three leaders seemed united on their support for Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, who was ousted six weeks ago in a coup that has been condemned around the world.

“Let me be very clear in our belief that President Zelaya was removed from office illegally, that it was a coup, and that he should return,” Mr. Obama said. And he dismissed as “hypocrisy, the criticism from some in Latin America who have accused the United States of doing too little to pressure Honduras’s de facto government to return Mr. Zelaya to power, among them, Mr. Zelaya himself.

“The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras,” he said, “are the same people who say that we’re always intervening, and that the Yankees need to get out of Latin America.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times, National, online version, of Monday, August 10, 2009.
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