On his first trip to the U.S. as Mexico's president, Calderon said he is working to combat anti-Americanism in Mexico and to improve job prospects there to reduce migration. He said he hopes that Americans resist anti-Mexican sentiments.
"The worst thing that happened in this country is this anti-Mexican or anti-immigrant perception of people. We need to contain this," Calderon said after a speech at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"I need to change in Mexico the perception that the Americans are the enemy, and it is important to change the perception that the Mexicans are the enemy," he said. "We are neighbors, we are friends and we must be allies."
The combination of American wealth and Mexican labor is an irresistible economic force, Calderon said.
"You have two economies. One economy is intensive in capital, which is the American economy. One economy is intensive in labor, which is the Mexican economy," he said. "We are two complementary economies, and that phenomenon is impossible to stop."
Calderon's trip has been billed as a high-stakes effort to shape the immigration debate during the U.S. presidential race, though Calderon is not meeting with any of the candidates or with President Bush during the trip. He said he will not endorse a candidate but will work with whomever is elected.
Immigration remains a key issue in nominating contests, particularly among Republicans, amid calls for toughened border security and a border fence.
"The American economy is suffering, but if you take the point of view that the solution for this situation, a lack of competitiveness of the American economy, is closing the border, you are making a very big mistake," Calderon said.
During his speech, Calderon said that he had worked hard to combat drug gangs in Mexico but that the effort would be long, costly and difficult. He also pointed a finger at the U.S., saying the drug trade in Mexico is contingent on the demand for illegal drugs north of the border.
"Drugs are not just our problem. We are the neighbor of the largest consumer in the world," he said.
Earlier Monday, Calderon and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed climate change, counter-narcotics efforts and U.N. anti-poverty goals during a private meeting in New York. Calderon also will visit Chicago, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.