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President Barack Obama welcomes Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the White House for an official state visit on Wednesday. ((J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press))

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the White House and pledged co-operation on immigration and battling a violent drug war and economic struggles.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Obama stepped up his criticism of Arizona's controversial immigration law, calling it "misdirected" and warning that it has the potential to be applied in a discriminatory fashion.

Obama also called for overhauling the nation's immigration laws and said that can't be done unless Republicans support it.

The controversy over the Arizona law, which would make it a state crime to be in the country illegally, hung over Calderon's visit.

Both leaders oppose the law, with Obama directing the Justice Department to review it for possible civil rights violations, and Calderon's government issuing a travel warning for Arizona, out of concern that Mexicans face an adverse political environment there.

Calderon made good on his pledge to take up the immigration issue during his meetings with Obama. He said the Arizona law criminalized migration and could encourage discrimination. He also called for the U.S. and Mexico to work together to solve the complex, politically sensitive immigration issue.

"We can do so if we create a safer border, a border that will unite us instead of dividing us, uniting our people," Calderon said. "We can do so with a community that will promote a dignified life in an orderly way for both our countries."