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Obama, Mexican President Talk Immigration, Cuba

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama hosts a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House.

President Barack Obama hosts a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, have pledged to continue working together to stem the flow of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States.

The two leaders spoke to reporters Tuesday after their first round of talks at the White House.

President Obama said the U.S. also appreciates Mexico's commitment to help send a "very clear message" about his executive action to shield nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. That message: that the U.S. is providing a mechanism to keep families together, but will also be much more aggressive at the border to make sure people come through the system legally.

President Peña Nieto said it is important that Mexico do everything it can to ensure the measure only benefits those it is supposed to benefit and does not generate "any misinformation or abuses," especially by organized crime groups.

Cuba

On the new U.S. effort to normalize relations with Cuba, President Obama said he wants to move toward "a more constructive policy," but one that continues to emphasize human rights, democracy and political freedom.

Peña Nieto said Mexico will be a "tireless supporter" of the U.S.-Cuba relationship and has offered its hope to collaborate in the effort so the relationship can be re-established "as soon as possible."

Also raised during Tuesday's talks were the issues of economic growth, cross-border trade, clean energy and educational exchanges, as well as security.

Missing students

President Obama said he and President Peña Nieto discussed the September abduction and presumed murder of 43 Mexican students by drug gang members linked to police.

Human Rights Watch had sent a letter to Obama on Monday calling for him to press the Mexican leader to take the crisis more seriously and "address Mexico's failure to investigate and prosecute egregious abuses by Mexican security forces."

Obama said President Peña Nieto described the reform programs he has initiated. The U.S. leader said his nation's commitment is "to be a friend and supporter of Mexico" in its efforts to eliminate violence and drug cartels, but that ultimately, "it will be up to Mexico and its law enforcement to carry out the key decisions that need to be made."

The incident has triggered protests across Mexico. It has also delivered a major blow to President Peña Nieto, who has seen his approval ratings sink amid criticism he was slow to respond to the mass disappearance.

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