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Obama Says Immigration Changes Must Wait Till 2010

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/world/americas/11prexy.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a1 Obama Says Immigration Changes Must Wait Till 2010 By GINGER THOMPSON
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 10, 2009
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      Obama Says Immigration Changes Must Wait Till 2010
      Published: August 10, 2009

      GUADALAJARA, Mexico — President Obama said Monday that efforts to change the immigration system would be a major focus for his administration only next year, after other major priorities were accomplished, including passage of a new health care system.

      “It’s very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in a way where they don’t all just crash at the same time,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

      Mr. Obama, flanked by the leaders of Mexico and Canada, spoke here at a news conference after an annual trilateral summit meeting. Responding to a range of questions on domestic and international issues, he also said the United States was committed to the return of the ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

      Mr. Obama offered a spirited defense of Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers, brushing aside suggestions that some American financial assistance ought to be withheld because of human rights abuses by the army.

      Repeating a line used often by President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Mr. Obama labeled the drug traffickers causing so much violence in both Mexico and the United States as the biggest violators of human rights.

      The American aid package for Mexico states that 15 percent of the funds — about $100 million — can be disbursed only if the State Department decides that the Mexican government meets certain human rights conditions. Reports that Mexico’s army has engaged in torture and other abuses while carrying out the drug war have prompted human rights groups and some American lawmakers to oppose releasing those funds.

      Clearly pleased by the words of support, Mr. Calderón said his government had worked scrupulously to respect human rights. “We have an absolute, complete commitment to human rights,” he said. “Our fight against the cartels is about the human rights of the Mexican people.”

      But human rights advocates and Mexico’s human rights commission have documented numerous complaints of torture, rape, beatings and arbitrary detentions since Mr. Calderón sent more than 45,000 soldiers to take on traffickers.

      One of the problems, human rights advocates say, is that the military insists on investigating accusations against its soldiers even though the law provides for military jurisdiction only in cases in which crimes are committed “in service.” Mexico’s Supreme Court was discussing that issue Monday and a ruling was expected soon.

      Mexican officials suggest privately that subjecting soldiers to civilian prosecution will damage the military’s morale as poorly paid soldiers risk their lives for the safety of the population. But critics of the army argue that the drug war will succeed only if it has the backing of the population.

      Although the army continues to receive broad support, especially in besieged communities where criminals have long ruled, some have begun to question the ability of the army to take on policing duties. “I shake every time I see them go by,” the widow of an unarmed man whom the army killed at a checkpoint in the hills of western Sinaloa in 2007 said in a recent interview. She received a check from the army after her husband’s death but, she said, no apology for what occurred.

      Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas Melendez, commander of the Eighth Military zone in Reynosa, where one of the alleged abuses took place, said in an interview in January that his men were struggling against a challenging enemy and not intentionally singling out civilians.
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