By DAVE LEVINTHAL
The Dallas Morning News
Illegal immigration continues to rank among the nation's most contentious issues, but Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said it should remain just that – a national issue.
That's why he said he had no interest in discussing illegal immigration with Mexican President Felipe Calderón during a private meeting Tuesday in Dallas.
"It's not part of our discussion," Mr. Leppert said. "We're focused on the same issues, like trade, that we talked about when I went to Mexico earlier this year."
Mr. Leppert greeted the Mexican president upon his arrival in Dallas, where Mr. Calderón met with high-level local business leaders.
Mr. Leppert, both as mayoral candidate and as mayor, has consistently contended that illegal immigration isn't Dallas City Hall's issue to address.
While officials in suburbs such as Farmers Branch and Irving have pursued municipal laws targeting illegal immigrants, Dallas officials have not.
"It's a federal issue that should be dealt with on a federal basis," he said in April 2007, two months before voters elected him mayor.
In a January visit to Mexico City, he said, "It's certainly the wrong way to go, having municipalities determine federal policies."
Mr. Leppert reiterated that stance this week, saying he's regularly urged Dallas-area congressional representatives to overhaul federal laws.
Mr. Leppert supports creating a municipal office focused on assimilating legal immigrants in Dallas, regardless of their national origin.
But the City Council did not fund that office in its current budget.
He also said he'll continue to press strengthening trade ties with Mexico, particularly those that benefit Dallas' inland port project along the city's southeastern-most tip.
During his January trip to Mexico, he pitched Dallas as a tourist destination for Mexicans – one filled with cultural and shopping amenities, and plenty of direct flights.