Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, speaking at a luncheon held in honor of his visit to California, thanked Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday for respecting immigrants "whether they have citizenship or not, whether they have legal status or not."
"The government of Mexico has so much respect for what the government of California has done," Peña Nieto said.
Compared with other border states like Arizona and Texas, California has taken a more conciliatory stance to immigrants who are in the country illegally. Brown has signed legislation to allow them to obtain driver's licenses and access financial aid at public universities.
Peña Nieto's visit to Sacramento is the second part of his trip to California; he was in Los Angeles on Monday. The trip comes less than a month after Brown's four-day trade mission to Mexico, where the governor met privately with Peña Nieto and signed several trade and environmental agreements with Mexican officials.
In his own toast on Tuesday, Brown said California has enjoyed a special relationship with Mexico through the years.
"The past is only prologue to an even brighter future in the days and years ahead," Brown said.
He said it made sense for Peña Nieto to visit California on his first official trip to the U.S., calling the state "the leading edge of the United States."
The lunch was filled with the pageantry typical of such events. Brown and Peña Nieto walked through a gantlet of cameras to sit at the front of the room, without pausing to take questions from reporters.
Diners, who included top California lawmakers and administration officials, enjoyed a menu filled with "the bounty of the Sacramento Valley," including heirloom tomatoes and chicken.
Protesters gathered across the street from the event to call for the release of a U.S. Marine who has been held in Mexico since March on weapons charges. The Marine has said he crossed the border accidentally; Mexican officials say they will let the judicial system run its course.
Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.