Mexico's Calderon to protest Arizona law to Obama

MEXICO CITY Fri May 14, 2010 12:46am EDT

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon will protest to U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next week about Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants, Calderon told Reuters on Thursday.

Calderon said a law that will come into force in Arizona in July, requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the United States illegally, was already affecting relations between the two neighbors.

"It contains elements that are frankly discriminatory, terribly backward," Calderon told Reuters in an interview.

He said he would bring Mexico's protest over the law to a meeting with Obama and in front of the U.S. Congress during an official visit to Washington next week.

"The fact the law has introduced, regardless of all the nuances being used, the possibility of detaining, arresting somebody on the grounds of their physical appearance implies one of the most serious reversals that I remember," he said.

The move by Arizona, which borders Mexico, has sparked outraged protests, pushed some U.S. states to seek economic boycotts of Arizona and pushed the immigration debate in the United States into the political foreground.

There are an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants, mostly from Latin America, in the United States.

Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States and has millions of citizens working there legally or illegally, has condemned the legislation, issued a warning for Mexicans living or traveling there, and asked its consulates in Arizona to offer Mexicans legal protection.

Asked if the law could affect bilateral relations, Calderon said: "It is affecting it, sadly, it is affecting it."

Obama has denounced the law as misguided, and the storm over it has boosted a drive by the president and Senate Democrats to overhaul federal immigration laws, something Mexico has been pushing for years, to better immigrant rights.

"It's a very sensitive issue on both sides of the border but I know President Obama's will (to do something) and we are both doing, and will do, more to avoid this really affecting relations," Calderon said.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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