The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 2, 2013

Obama to pitch immigration overhaul in Mexico

(Continued)

Pena Nieto took office in December, and for Obama the trip is an opportunity to take his measure of the Mexican leader early in his tenure.

"It's really important to go there while this new president is forming his own plans and judgments about what he's going to do about the border, about where he's going to be on immigration, about where he is on trade," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Thomas Donohue said in an interview.

The chamber long has worked to improve U.S.-Mexico trade, noting that now about 6 million U.S. jobs depend on commerce with Mexico.

Striking the right note on border security is key, Donohue said, because it is a central to winning support in Congress for the rest of the immigration legislation.

"That's what everybody wants to hear, and we have to do that in a way that makes these guys down there feel like we're doing it in conjunction with them and for them, so we can do this thing on immigration well, so we can expand our trade, so we can deal with our political issues as they are trying to deal with theirs," Donohue said.

Still, with 33 million U.S. residents of Mexican origin, Obama's message in Mexico is also bound to resonate in the U.S., where Latinos could increase pressure on Congress to act.

"It helps keep these passions alive as far as an issue to promote for the administration," said Carl Meacham, a former senior Latin America adviser on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But Meacham, now director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cautioned that despite some bipartisan support to create a path to citizenship in the immigration bill, there is skepticism in Latin America. "They've been brought to the altar so many times by different American administrations that there's a little bit of a lack of trust," he said.

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