Mexican President Felipe Calderon's visit brings attention to Arizona immigration law, the drug war and even Rick Bayless

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Photo from whitehouse.gov

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon was in Washington, D.C. for a two-day visit with his wife and First Lady Margarita Zavala.

You probably heard Rick Bayless was the chef for the official state dinner. And you also may have heard how the normally flawless Lynn Sweet mistakenly reported that Bayless Tweeted from inside the White House. This is prohibido. And Bayless said he Tweeted from his hotel.

But I don't have an official comment on that story. My comments on Bayless in the past were taken out of context. And besides, he really doesn't need any more press. He gets plenty of it already.

Instead I would like to focus on some of the real issues that President Calderon tackled in his speech to the joint session of Congress Thursday.

Before I do I would like to highlight one number - $1.1 billion.

That is how much money the United States has committed in aid to fighting the war on drugs in Mexico.  It has been slow to be dispersed, according to the Associated Press.

Now I believe the Mexican president is sincere in wanting to fight the drug war. But his efforts have only led to the militarization of Mexico and to more than 23,000 people killed since he took office in December 2006.

During his speech before the U.S. Congress, President Calderon rightfully pointed out that the United States shares in responsibility for the drug war.

"We cannot ignore the fact that the challenge to our security has roots on both sides of the border. At the end of the day, its origin (is) the high demand for drugs here (in the United States) and in other places," Calderon said.

He also asked the United States government to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico.

"There is one issue where Mexico needs your cooperation, that is stopping the flow of assault weapons and other deadly weapons across the border," he said.

I believe that the United States should instead spend that $1.1 billion on helping Mexico create a jobs program at home. Mexico needs a kind of Marshall plan to create a stronger economic foundation and jobs so people don't have to migrate to the United States.

President Calderon told the U.S. Congress that he did not want to encourage immigration to this country.

"I'm not a president who likes to see Mexicans leave our country searching for opportunities abroad. With migration, our communities lose their best people, the hardest working, the most dynamic, the leaders of the community," President Calderon said before Congress.

"Today we are doing the best that we can do in order to reduce migration, to create opportunities and to create jobs for Mexicans in our own country where their homes are and where their families are...For us, migration is not just your problem. We see migration as our problem as well."

President Calderon acknowledged U.S. sovereignty in passing laws but he also criticized the new immigration law in Arizona that he said would result in racial profiling.

"My government does not favor the breaking of the rules. I fully respect the right of any country to enact and enforce its own laws. But what we need today is to fix a broken and unefficent system," he said later adding.  "I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona."

Many in Congress rose for a standing ovation after the Mexican president's critique of Arizona.

Calderon's words hopefully will resonate with Congress, which ultimately must act on immigration reform. It's time for them to act and pronto.

The desperate need for reform crystalized when First Ladies Michelle Obama and Margarita Zavala visited a local elementary school in Silver Spring, Md. Two-thirds of the students at the school are Hispanic and one girl raised her hand to ask the First Ladies a question, according to a story in the New York Times.

"My mom," the girl said, "she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers."

"Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right?" Mrs. Obama answered. "To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right?"

"But my mom doesn't have any papers," the girl said.

We can't send this girl's mother back. We also can't open the border to everybody who wants to migrate.

But we must find a way to help legalize many of the undocumented, like this young girl's mother and youth brought here by their parents, who live in this country and contribute to the economy and future of the United States.

Hopefully, President Calderon's visit will underscore to our government that now is the time to press forward for immigration reform.

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