Kate Linthicum and Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2014
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto kicked off a two-day tour of California with a speech to Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles on Monday in which he pledged to make life better for his countrymen living on both sides of the border.
Pledging reduced wait times at border crossings and faster services at Mexican consulates across the United States, Nieto said he had an obligation to serve all Mexicans, regardless of where they lived.
“This is the other Mexico,” he said of the United States, which is home to an estimated 11 million Mexican immigrants.
Peña Nieto, who is making his first official trip to the U.S. since he was sworn in nearly two years ago, spoke in Spanish to a crowd of several hundred at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. He entered a ballroom alight with the colors of the Mexican flag to thunderous applause and shouts of “Bienvenidos!”
In introducing Peña Nieto on Monday, [Gov. Jerry] Brown spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California and nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn’t matter whether they had permission to be in the United States.
“You’re all welcome in California,” he said.
Peña Nieto also expounded on the close ties between Mexico and California, which has the country’s largest population of Mexican immigrants. He thanked state officials for embracing foreigners, citing measures that extend state benefits to immigrants, and presented scholarships to several immigrant students enrolled at California universities.
Before he spoke, Peña Nieto heard from several local Mexican American leaders about the concerns of immigrants. Pina Hernandez, who heads a federation of immigrants who come from the Mexican state of Jalisco, said violence back home by warring drug cartels is still a top issue for many.