With the immigration debate raging in both their countries, President Obama and Mexico's Felipe Calderon will reaffirm their commitment to comprehensive immigration reform during the Mexican leader's state visit here Wednesday.
While immigration has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and Mexico, the controversial immigration law recently enacted in border state Arizona threatens to add strain to the relationship. Obama has promised to start work on reform, but he has also warned that lawmakers may not have the appetite to take on the sensitive issue this election year.
Calderon has vowed to push for immigration reform during his trip to Washington. He is facing pressure from some Mexican lawmakers to consider breaking commercial ties with Arizona, and his government has issued a travel warning for the Arizona, warning that migrants face an adverse political environment there.
Obama has called the Arizona law "misguided" and has asked the Justice Department to review the law.
The law requires police to ask about a person's immigration status if there's suspicion the person is in the country illegally.
A senior administration official said the U.S. expects a series of concrete steps on immigration to come out of Wednesday's meetings that build on work done this year to open new border crossings and invest in the modernization of existing crossings. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely ahead of the meetings.
Calderon will be the second world leader to be welcomed to the Obama White House with a state dinner. The two leaders will hold a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday followed by a formal dinner for 200 guests that evening.
Obama's first state dinner was held in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November.
Obama and Calderon have met nearly a dozen times since Obama took office, including a meeting last April in Mexico City and a North American leaders summit in Guadalajara in August. First Lady Michelle Obama has also formed a friendship with Mexico's first lady Margarita Zavala, who visisted the White House in February. Mrs. Obama visited Zavala in Mexico City last month on her first solo trip abroad as first lady.
Obama and Calderon are also expected to discuss the ongoing drug violence that has affected both sides of the border. More than 22,700 people have been killed since Calderon deployed tens of thousands of troops and federal police across the country in December 2006 in an offensive against drug traffickers.
Washington has been a strong supporter of the offensive, providing training and equipment under the $1.3 billion Merida Initiative. The Obama administration has earned praise from Mexico for repeatedly acknowledging that U.S. drug consumption is a large part of the problem.
Also expected to be on the agenda Wednesday are climate change and the economy. Calderon has worked to make Mexico a global leader on climate change, and his country will host the next round of international climate negotiations in December in Cancun.
The administration official also said Tuesday that both sides expect to come away from the meetings with a number of concrete announcements about the ways in which both governments can work together to enhance economic competitiveness.