ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: Mexican President Felipe Calderon looked down the American political divide Thursday in a remarkable address to a joint meeting of Congress , urging lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform and curb some gun rights.
His message drew a stiff rebuke from Republican lawmakers.
At one point speaking in Spanish, Calderon brought Democrats to their feet in standing ovation while across the aisle, Republicans sat.
The lopsided video broadcast on C-SPAN looked more like a domestic State of the Union address than a polite address by a foreign dignitary.
Calderon spoke at length about his attempts to address drug trafficking and organized crime. But he drew a direct correlation between an uptick in violence in Mexico and the lapse of a ban on assault weapons in the United States in 2004. Calderon said the Congress should reinstate the ban; 80 percent of traceable weapons in Mexcio used in crimes, he said, come from the United States.
“I fully respect -- let me be clear on this. I fully respect – I admire the American Constitution. And I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee good American citizens the ability to defend themselves and their nation,” he said. “But believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands. Instead, thousands are ending up in the hands of criminals.”
He suggested that criminals in the US could challenge American authorities as they have in Mexico and asked Congress to consider reinstating the ban. Most Democrats could be seen standing. Republicans were not.
The divide was even more pronounced when Calderon spoke in Spanish to migrant workers who have crossed the border to work in the United States. Calderon talked about the importance of making opportunities for these workers – he said they are the hardest working in his society – in Mexico.
“I want to say to the migrants, all those who are working really hard for this great country, that we admire them, we miss them, we are working hard for their rights, and we are working really hard for Mexico and for their families,” he said, to a divided chamber.
“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 -- as many jobs as we can. And Mexico will one day be a country in which our people will find the opportunities that today they look for outside of the country.”
Calderon decried the Arizona state law that allows law enforcement there to require proof of legality for anyone suspected of being undocumented. Calderon said the law is little more than racial profiling and said the US and Mexico must “bridge the gap between emotions and our countries.”
“We must find a better way together to face and fix this problem,” he said.
Calderon’s calls for action by the US Congress brought an immediate rebuke from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex.
“It was inappropriate for President Calderon to lecture Americans on our own state and federal laws,” Cornyn said in a written statement. “Arizona’s immigration law has been amended to make clear it does not authorize racial profiling by law enforcement. Moreover, the Second Amendment is not a subject open for diplomatic negotiation, with Mexico or any other nation.”
For his quibbles with Congress on guns and immigration (migration for him), Calderon spoke of the shared future of the US and Mexico and how their economies are inextricably linked.