Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who has has publicly stated his concern for the "growing harassment" and "frank persecution" of Mexicans in the United States, will make his first official visit to California Wednesday and will meet with immigrant leaders among others.
Speaking to the Mexican government's migrant assistance agency in November, his comments about "persecution" appear to have been aimed at U.S. presidential candidates who voiced their desire to curb illegal immigration. He also expressed disappointment at Congress' inability to agree on an immigration reform measure.
While in the Golden State, he will address the state Legislature and attend a private lunch meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and other officials.
According to George Grayson, a government professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia who specializes in Mexico, Calderon also is coming to the United States to apply political pressure on U.S. lawmakers.
"The reason he's in the United States is to exert influence directly and indirectly on U.S. policy-makers in hopes that after the presidential election, there will be an expansion of the guest-worker program; there will be more visas issued to Mexican citizens; and there will be a path to legalization for the illegal aliens already here," Grayson told the San Bernadino County Sun.
"There has been a lot of criticism from Mexican leaders in the U.S. that he hasn't traveled to this country; he hasn't visited with them," Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the Contra Costa Times.
The acting Mexican consul in San Jose, Jose Loreto, told the Times that Calderon, elected in 2006, has been too busy dealing with internal matters to schedule a trip north.
"His main objective is to get close to community groups," Loreto said.
"And unlike [former President] Vicente Fox, he hasn't paid the kind of consistent attention to Mexican communities in the United States, and he's trying to address that."
The Times reported that Calderon will tour a Wine Country vineyard owned by an immigrant from his home state, Michoacan, and meet with migrant workers in Los Angeles.
Wednesday morning, Calderon, 45, will meet privately with the Latino Legislative Caucus as well as Senate and Assembly leaders from both parties before addressing both houses.
Speaker Nunez told the Sun that Calderon's visit underscores the importance of economic and cultural ties between both countries.
"People are going to see a young president who is very practical and understands that, beyond the racial biases that some Americans have about Mexico, there is strength in that economic interdependency that exists between California and Mexico," Nunez said.
Calderon will then fly to Los Angeles to meet with Mexican immigrants.
"He needs to focus on helping the workers in the rural areas who are really struggling," said Ayala, who runs a community organization that aids Latino immigrants in San Bernardino and Riverside counties Luz Maria Ayala told the Sun. "He needs to raise wages a lot. If people earned more money in Mexico, they wouldn't have to risk their lives to cross the border to come here to work."
Ayala and her husband, Antonio Ayala, are part of a select group of immigrant leaders that will meet with Calderon during his visit to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
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