(MEXICO CITY) — President Obama arrived in Mexico City Thursday, where the economy and trade were intended to top the agenda of his three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.
With Congress poised to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, however, border security and immigration reform are overshadowing much of the public discussion.
“I’m optimistic about us getting this done because it’s the right thing to do. We’ve seen leaders from both parties indicate that now’s the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “If we’re going to get that done, now’s the time to do it.”
Obama argued that reforming the U.S. immigration system is an economic imperative and, given the amount of trade between the U.S. and its southern neighbor, that it’s important for the countries not to get bogged down with border issues. Mexico is the United States’ second-largest trading partner.
One day after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that the immigration reform bill will struggle to pass if border security provisions are not strengthened, Obama defended his administration’s efforts to boost the border.
“We’ve put enormous resources into border security,” he said, before admitting that “there are areas where there’s still more work to be done.”
Obama also recommitted the U.S. to help in the fight against illegal drug trafficking amid tension over Pena Nieto’s decision to limit the amount of access Mexico gives to U.S. security agencies.
“I agreed to continue our close cooperation on security, even as the nature of that cooperation will evolve,” Obama said. “As I told the president, it is obviously up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how it engages with other nations, including the United States.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Joshua Berlinger and Nima Elbagir, CNN Newswire
Michael Pearson and Barbie Nadeau, CNN Newswire