MEXICO CITY - Beneath the slogan "Obama, don't deport my mama," dozens of migrant families deported from the U.S. despite having children born there rallied outside the U.S. Embassy before President Obama's arrival Thursday, demanding passage of a U.S. immigration law they say is vital to keeping families together.
Vladimir Mejia Franco, 12, held a hand-lettered sign that said "Obama, Stop Deportations."
The American citizen born in St. Louis was 4 when his parents were deported in 2005. The family later split up after his father legally returned to the United States. Vladimir lives in Mexico with his mother, Veronica Mejia Franco, 32, formerly a housekeeper at a St. Louis hotel who says she has a hard time finding work in the western Mexican state of Michoacan.
"He says that when he grows up he wants to go back, but he doesn't know English or anything," Mejia Franco said of her son. "He wants to go now, to learn English, but he doesn't want to leave me behind."
Immigration advocates in the U.S. have criticized the record numbers of deportations under Obama, which they say are splitting up families.
"Beast" is a hit
One member of the U.S. delegation proved more popular among Mexicans than Obama: his heavily armored limousine, nicknamed "La Bestia," or "The Beast."
Since the country's drug violence began to escalate in 2006, so has interest in bulletproof vehicles. So the Beast, with its long wheelbase, extra-thick doors and huge tires, was a natural hit.
Its arrival in Mexico, several days before Obama, was greeted with front-page newspaper stories and graphics describing its many security features.
A photo of the Cadillac filling up at a city gas station ran on the front page of the daily Reforma. Live TV news coverage of the American president's arrival in Mexico City's centuries-old main plaza was marked by news anchors reporting its every move: "There's the Beast!" they exclaimed.