BLITZER: After president Calderon’s visit to the White House, he came right here to THE SITUATION ROOM for an exclusive interview. This is his only television interview during his state visit to Washington.
I asked him, what’s wrong with the folks in Arizona wanting to protect their border?
PRES. FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICO: That is not exactly the problem. I fully respect the right of any nation to establish the legislation that that nation wants — or their people — and, of course, the right of any nation to enforce the law and protect their own borders.
But the problem is first that we need to — to face this challenge in a comprehensive way as President Obama says. And that implies to recognize the rights and the contribution of the people to the growth of this great nation.
But, on the other hand, and in particular, in Arizona, there is some racial profiling criteria in order to enforce the law that it is against any sense of human rights and, of course, is provoking a very disappointing things — or a very disappointing opinion in Mexico and around the world, even here, in America.
BLITZER: Because the governor of Arizona says there is no racial profiling, that they’re not going to simply stop someone who looks Mexican. They’re going to have to have — the police are going to have to a reason for stopping someone. And if that reason then asks — results in them asking for papers, that’s a different matter.
CALDERON: It could be. And I fully respect the opinion of the governor. But from the point of view of not only Mexican people, but also Mexican-American people and specialists and analyzed the new law precisely had this kind of risk.
BLITZER: Even the amendments that were made — the changes that were made in this law in Arizona?
CALDERON: Even with that, because what is — the reason is we need to clarify — and, in particular, it would be fine if the judicial authorities are able to clarify how dangerous or how bad is the law. If the authorities say it is good, we will respect.
But, anyway, I think that we need to focus in a different way the solution of my — of immigration here in the States. BLITZER: You heard the president of the United States say that he doesn’t have the votes in the Senate, maybe not in the House of Representatives, to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would include a pathway to citizenship — U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants.
So what — in the meantime, is there anything wrong with states trying to tighten up their security?
CALDERON: The point is to introduce these kinds of elements, especially racial profiling aspects that are attempting against what we consider human rights. It’s the principle of discrimination, which is against the values of this great nation.
BLITZER: Has your foreign ministry issued a travel advisory to Mexicans not to visit Arizona?
CALDERON: Yes, because according with this law, it’s — there is some risk for Mexican people, especially because…
BLITZER: And so if a tourist goes to Mex — to Arizona and has the proper visas, the proper papers, what’s the risk?
CALDERON: The risk is that it — well, they looks like Mexicans. And, exactly, they are Mexican, even they are visiting and buying things in Arizona.
Let me tell you what the Mexican — Mexican consumption in Arizona implied like $3 billion a year. So the tourism and other activities of Mexican people in Arizona works a lot for Arizona’s economy.
BLITZER: So you think Arizona will pay a price for this — this new law?
CALDERON: I don’t want that. I only want an — a mutual understanding. And, in particular, I don’t want to move these controversial feelings. I don’t want to exacerbate bad feelings between Mexicans and Americans. We need to find out a solution.
What is clear for me is that that law is not a solution at all.
BLITZER: All right. Let’s talk a little bit about Mexico’s laws. I read an article in “The Washington Times” the other day. I’m going to read a paragraph to you and you tell me if this is true or not true. This is from “The Washington Times”: “Under the Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to reenter can be imprisoned for 10 years. Visa violators can be sentenced to six year terms. Mexicans who help illegal immigrants are considered criminals.”
Is that true?
CALDERON: It was true, but it is not anymore. We derogate or we erased that part of the law. Actually, the legal immigration is not a — is not a crime in Mexico. Not anymore, since one year ago. And that is the reason why we are trying to establish our own comprehensive public policy talking about, for instance, immigrants coming from Central America…
BLITZER: So if…
CALDERON: — (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: So if people want to come from Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador or Nicaragua, they want to just come into Mexico, they can just walk in?
CALDERON: No. They need to fulfill a form. They need to establish their right name. We analyze if they have not a criminal precedent. And they coming into Mexico. Actually…
BLITZER: Do Mexican police go around asking for papers of people they suspect are illegal immigrants?
CALDERON: Of course. Of course, in the border, we are asking the people, who are you?
And if they explain…
BLITZER: At the border, I understand, when they come in.
BLITZER: But once they’re in…
CALDERON: But not — but not in — if — once they are inside the — inside the country, what the Mexican police do is, of course, enforce the law. But by any means, immigration is a crime anymore in Mexico.
BLITZER: Immigration is not a crime, you’re saying?
CALDERON: It’s not a crime.
BLITZER: So in other words, if somebody sneaks in from Nicaragua or some other country in Central America, through the southern border of Mexico, they wind up in Mexico, they can go get a job…
CALDERON: No, no.
BLITZER: They can work.
CALDERON: If — if somebody do that without permission, we send back — we send back them.
BLITZER: You find them and you send them back?
CALDERON: Yes. However, especially with the people of Guatemala, we are providing a new system in which any single citizen from Guatemala could be able to visit any single border (INAUDIBLE) in the south. And even with all the requirements, he can or she can visit any parts of Mexico.
BLITZER: I ask the questions because there’s an argument that people in Arizona and New Mexico and — and Texas, they say they’re only trying to do in their states what Mexico itself does in the southern part of Mexico.
CALDERON: I know. And that is a very powerful argument. But that is one of the reasons why we are trying to change our policy.
They can’t work, they have to show documents, and they get sent back. Any questions?