During the speech, small groups protested Peña Nieto’s visit, alleging corruption by his administration.
The president did not mention current immigration issues, like the spike in Central American youth illegally traveling through Mexico into the United States. But he did offer to work with DREAMers – undocumented students who want to pursue higher education – in providing scholarships and supporting education for immigrants.
During the ceremony, a group of students from Mexico was awarded scholarships to attend California universities including UCLA, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach.
“You young people are the symbol of the renewed relationship between Mexico and the United States,” Peña Nieto said.
He reassured the Mexican immigrants – documented and not – in the United States that though they left their native land, they always have the country’s support.
At the end of the almost 2-hour long reception, Brown, Garcetti and Peña Nieto were mobbed by audience members clamoring for photos and wanting to speak to them.
Lily Gutierrez just missed her turn at taking a photo with Peña Nieto. She was disappointed but left happy. Gutierrez is president of Federacion de Michoacanos en California, a Whittier group of Mexican immigrants from the state of Michoacan.
She doesn‘t always agree with Peña Nieto’s policies but said his words that night pleasantly surprised her.
“No (Mexican) president has ever acknowledged that those of us who left (Mexico) still contribute to the country,” she said. “It’s historic, what he said. We didn’t leave Mexico and forget about it and he recognized that.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com