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Varying levels of welcome for Mexican president
By Emily Krone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/13/2008 12:17 AM

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The suburban reaction to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's stopover Tuesday in Chicago was as mixed as his reputation in his own country.

Calderon, who won a disputed election in 2006, continued his first presidential visit to the United States by meeting with local politicians and immigration rights activists, including some from the suburbs.

Carpentersville Trustee Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski scored a personal invitation from the Mexican Consulate to meet Calderon. She has led opposition to the proposed crackdown on Carpentersville employers and landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants.

"The people were excited to see him and liked what he had to say," Ramirez-Sliwinski said. "He said the U.S. and Mexico need to work together … . It's not a local government issue, and unless the two federal governments work together, they're never going to have any successes."

Others blasted Calderon for meddling in the affairs of another nation while poverty at home forces workers across the border.

"I just think that as a sovereign nation, we shouldn't be putting up with this," said David Gorak, executive director of the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration. "What is he doing running around here? He should stay home and make his own country work for his own people."

Jim Richardson, of the Fox Valley Minuteman Project, called Calderon a "very divisive man."

"He wants the illegal immigration ingrained in," Richardson said. "He wants to take advantage of the generosity of people in the Fox Valley and the state of Illinois."

Calderon met with Chicago and state officials, but increasingly, the suburbs have become flash points of the immigration debate.

Elgin last month joined a growing list of suburban communities rolling out plans to combat illegal immigration.

Hispanic immigrants there are gripped by fear, said Jaime Garcia, interim executive director of Centro de Informacion in Elgin.

A visit by a head of state won't do much to alleviate those fears, Garcia said.

"In the streets of Elgin, is his visit going to do anything? Certainly it's not going to have any type of effect on what happens on city council," Garcia said. "If he did try to suggest something or do anything to intervene, that just gives them more fuel for the fire."