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Calderon talks immigration, gun control in visit to U.S.

In an often fiery address to Congress on Thursday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon urged lawmakers to take action on two issues at the heart of domestic politics in the United States: immigration and gun control.

Calderon, whose country is mired in a bloody and protracted conflict with powerful drug cartels, asked Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons, which are often trafficked illegally between the U.S. and Mexico, according to NPR:

And if you’ll look carefully, you will notice that the violence in Mexico started to grow a couple of years before I took office, in 2006. This coincides with the lifting of the assault-weapons ban in 2004. One day, criminals in Mexico, having gained an access to these weapons, decided to challenge the authorities in my country. Today, these weapons are aimed by the criminals not only at rival gangs, but also at Mexican civilians and authorities.

Calderon has also waded into the highly-charged issue of illegal immigration during his two-day visit to the U.S. In his speech to Congress, he urged lawmakers to reform the immigration system, and disputed the common belief among Americans that Mexico encourages its citizens to enter the U.S. illegally.

In a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama said he too would like to see the immigration system overhauled, according to ABC News:

“If we are divided, we cannot overcome these problems,” Calderon said at the arrival ceremony Wednesday morning.

President Obama agreed, saying that he shares the frustrations of people unhappy about the inability of lawmakers to pass immigration reform but that the “troublesome” Arizona law could subject people to “harassment.”

“I think the Arizona law has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion,” Obama said in joint remarks with Calderon.

Meanwhile, drug-fueled violence in Juarez continues to rage. The El Paso Times reported that federal police and gang members were engaged in a gun battle in the middle of a busy Juarez avenue on Thursday, and that a local police supervisor had been killed:

A shootout erupted in the middle of a busy avenue in Juárez on Wednesday afternoon, another day in one of the world’s most dangerous cities while the presidents of Mexico and the United States met in Washington, D.C.

The shootout was part of a day that included the killing of a Juárez police supervisor, a triple murder and an announcement that Mexican federal police had arrested an alleged Juárez drug cartel member accused in 10 murders.

The renewed violence comes just days after a former Mexican presidential candidate was kidnapped, and most of the police force in La Union, a small Mexican town, quit when armed men ambushed and wounded two of their colleagues.

For more on the violence in Juarez and the controversy over illegal immigration, see Need to Know’s previous coverage: