MEXICO CITY – President Obama should cut deportations of migrants and focus resources on the 2 million people in the U.S. who are eligible to become citizens, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday during a visit to Mexico's capital.
Garcetti, on his first foreign trip since taking office in July, said he supports Obama on immigration reform but said families and communities have been divided by the president's policy of deportations, which have totaled nearly 2 million since Obama took office.
" I understand the strategy behind it, but I don't think it's yielded much in that strategy, and I think at this moment we should be looking at opportunities to integrate, not to divide," Garcetti said in a meeting with reporters during a three-day visit to promote trade and travel exchanges.
Garcetti is looking to increase business, cultural and educational exchanges between Mexico and Los Angeles, where nearly half of the 4 million residents are of Hispanic heritage, the vast majority of Mexican roots. He talked about everything from Dodgers games in Mexico to Mexican art exhibits in Los Angeles museums.
Trade between the Los Angeles metropolitan area and Mexico currently stands at $15 billion a year, he said, adding that his city needed to be more aggressive.
"Others quite frankly have hustled a lot more here in Mexico," he said. "We have better assets, better geography, better connections with the people — imagine if we really worked it."
During the trip, Mexican officials have asked about the deportations, but the issue hasn't hurt his promotional efforts, Garcetti said.
"It wasn't like 'We do not feel welcome' or 'We are not going to the United States,'" he said.
Some Americans are concerned about violence in Mexico, but Garcetti said he has no trouble encouraging Angelinos to go to Baja California, where the U.S. State Department says Americans should "exercise caution, particularly at night." Part of his mission is to increase cruise-ship trips along Mexico's Pacific Coast, which have fallen from about 1.2 million passengers a year to about 480,000, he said.
Just like some neighborhoods in Los Angeles, there are parts of Mexico where people have to be careful, he said.
"But we have to get past the caricature of Mexico being unsafe," he said. "They've done a good job in tourist areas ... to make it extremely safe."