WASHINGTON – Divided over a border fence, President Bush and Mexico's president-elect pledged on Thursday to work together on stopping illegal immigration.
Felipe Calderon, who takes office on Dec. 1, has called the U.S. plan to build a 700-mile fence along the border "deplorable" and compared it to the construction of the Berlin Wall.
After a meeting in the Oval Office, the leaders struck a tone of cooperation.
"I expressed to President Bush my concern regarding the issue of migration," Calderon said through an interpreter. "President Bush was very open to all the arguments that I presented to him. We both stressed the need to have a comprehensive vision with which we can move forward."
Bush signed the law authorizing the fence on Oct. 26. He wants more — temporary worker permits for foreigners willing to take low-wage jobs and a path for illegal immigrants working in the United States for some time to become citizens. But Congress has not agreed.
Bush said Thursday that Mexico is a priority for his administration. He said he stands by his push for a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
"I assured him that we will work very closely together," Bush told reporters, with Calderon at his side.
The leaders also discussed free trade and efforts to stop drug trafficking.
Ahead of his meeting with Bush, Calderon spoke to a gathering of some 200 Hispanic leaders in Washington. He also had a breakfast meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other members of Bush's Cabinet.
Calderon acknowledged Wednesday that illegal border-crossings into the U.S. is an unpleasant issue for both countries. He said it raises enormous sensitivity in the U.S. and "takes away the most daring part of our population and divides our families."