WASHINGTON — Mexican President Felipe Calderon's appearance Thursday before a joint session of Congress dramatically illustrated — and possibly reinforced — the partisan divide that's stymied progress on immigration legislation.
In his 40-minute address, Calderon sharply criticized Arizona's tough new immigration law and the United States' refusal to ban assault weapons, which are being used in the violent drug-gang shoot-outs in Mexico.
Afterward, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Calderon "crossed a line" by urging changes in gun policy, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who's become a hard-liner on curbing illegal immigration, declared, "I've never heard of another country's president coming here and criticizing the United States like that."
Democrats were more supportive.
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"I don't know what the protocol is, but I don't think he crossed any line," said Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz.
A Democratic plan, unveiled April 29, would create a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million people who are in this country illegally now and would provide stronger security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The security features are aimed at wooing Republicans, who've said that security is their top priority.
However, with congressional elections less than six months away, there's been no movement toward compromise, and the bill is expected to get little traction in the current Congress.
"I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona," the Mexican president said, as most Democrats stood and cheered. He denounced it as "a terrible idea using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement."
Republicans reacted strongly.
"It's inappropriate for a head of state to question our laws, especially when the state of Arizona only acted in the best interest of its citizens and with the support of 70 percent of its people," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a Senate Judiciary Committee member.