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Calderon to Congress: Pass Immigration Reform

Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday, pressing lawmakers to reinstate an expired assault weapons ban and pass comprehensive immigration reform while also hailing the strength of the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

In the first address to Congress by a foreign national leader this year, Calderon said that the two countries must cooperate to improve security along the often-violent border and to control the flow of immigrants into the U.S.

Calderon said a spike in violence in Mexico coincided with the expiration of the assault weapons ban in the U.S. in 2004.

"There is one issue where Mexico needs your cooperation, and that is stopping the flow of assault weapons and other deadly arms across the border," he said, adding that he respects and admires the U.S. Constitution - including the Second Amendment, but that "Many of these guns are not going to honest American hands. Instead, thousands are ending up in the hands of criminals."

Calderon focused on cementing U.S. support for Mexico, heralding the fiscal and social reforms of his presidency and his administration's tough crackdown on the Mexican drug trade.

At one point he boasted that "Thanks to strong regulations, not one cent from taxpayers went to a single bank in Mexico last year," receiving widespread applause from lawmakers who have soured on the 2008 bank bailouts in the U.S.

Calderon Applause Line: No Bank Bailouts in My Country

He saved the most contentious issue for last.

Calderon said that "I'm not a president that likes to see Mexicans leave our country searching for opportunities abroad," and that Mexico will continue to fight to provide its citizens good jobs at home.

"But what we need today is to fix a broken and unefficient system," he said. "I am convinced that a comprehensive immigration reform is crucial."

The Mexican leader found an ally at the White House. President Barack Obama is pressing lawmakers to take up legislation that would deal with border security, employment and citizenship. He faces a harder sell in Congress, where many are leery of taking up the sensitive issue of immigration in an election year.

Calderon received his longest round of applause when he spoke in Spanish, addressing Mexican migrants in the U.S. and telling them that Mexico admires them, misses them, and is fighting hard for their rights and their families.

Calderon also won sustained applause when he said, "I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona. It is a law that not only ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree, but also introduced a terrible idea using racial profiling for law enforcement."

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