Tags: Mexico's | Fox | Urges | Migration | Deal

Mexico's Fox Urges Migration Deal

Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM

Fox used his opening remarks of a three-day state visit to the White House to call for an agreement on immigration "before the end of this very year" that would allow he and President Bush by the time they leave office "to make sure that there are no Mexicans who have not entered this country legally in the United States, and that those Mexicans who have come into the country do so with proper documents."

"The time has come," said Fox, "to give migrants and their communities their proper place in the history of our bilateral relations. Both our countries owe them a great deal."

To meet the Fox challenge, the Bush administration would have to come up with a way to grant legal status to an estimated 4.5 million Mexican illegal aliens in the U.S., or they would have to return home. And if Bush chose a program to grant legal status here he would likely have to extend it to an estimated 3 million to 5 million illegal aliens from other nations.

From the outset it was clear that administration officials were taken aback by the timetable suggested by the Mexican president.

At a briefing later Wednesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the key Bush Administration officials working this issue, said staffs of the two nations have been working "very diligently," for six months. But he could not "forecast an exact time when - whether before or after that time, when we would have the kind of finality."

Condeleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, said U.S. officials knew that this timetable was Fox's position but did not know he was going to raise the issue in his speech at the White House welcoming ceremony. She said neither president knew in advance what the other president was going to say.

"We think that it would be terrific if we were able by the end of the year to achieve agreement," Rice said. "But as the two presidents have said, we also have to get there right; it has to be done right, not just quickly."

In a detailed briefing late Wednesday, Rice stressed the complexities of the of the immigration issue, which has split President Bush's own party and raised controversy across the country.

"It's obviously a complicated issue, as President Fox said in his interview the other day. It's got a lot of elements to it, including the involvement of the legislature."

She said from the first meeting of the two presidents in February and before when they were governors in their respective countries, they recognized "that the migration structure was not functioning." And the vast numbers of Mexican illegal aliens living in the United States was a "reality" that had to be dealt with.

From the beginning of negotiations, there were expectations that Bush might grant an amnesty to illegal aliens. This brought immediate resistance from senior members of his party in Congress.

Bush's political advisers had their eye on the fast-growing - but largely Democrat - Hispanic vote in the United States, and it was thought by some that bringing 4.5 million Mexicans into legality would help the Republican Party gain inroads in that electorate. Other Republicans are aghast and think the stunt will instead aid the Democrats as well as hurt U.S. workers.

As the resistance increased on Capitol Hill over the summer, Bush last month ruled out an amnesty program.

Rice agreed Wednesday that there were major objections to an amnesty plan. For one it rewards people who have broken the law and in many cases broken several laws in coming to the U.S. and obtaining false documents to remain.

Secondarily, it punishes aliens who entered the U.S. legally and could often end up giving a job to someone who committed a crime that could have gone to someone who played by the rules.

The Bush administration then stressed that it was working on a temporary worker program, one that "doesn't hurt U.S. workers" and "brings together willing workers and willing employers." But this plan too has raised the objection that it is fine for future workers to come on a temporary worker program, but that if allows the 4.5 million illegal aliens already here to get legal it penalizes those workers who immigrated properly.

Hispanic groups opposed a temporary worker program that contemplated thousands of illegal aliens being forced back to Mexico.

On Thursday, Bush and Fox are expected to announce "principals" that the two governments have agreed upon to govern the future changes they contemplate.

They included a stressing of a "humane approach to the issue," which would dictate that immigration to the U.S. be "legal, orderly and dignified," instead of the dangerous and crime-controlled smuggling route that so many Mexican criminals have used. And there would be fairness in making jobs and opportunities available in an equitable way.

Fox is the first foreign leader to pay a formal state visit to the United States since Bush took office, and the president pulled out all the stops of a formal welcome.

In a ceremony on the South Portico of the White House, honor guards from the Navy, Army, Marines, Air Corps and Coast Guard paraded for the two presidents while the Army band played the Mexican and U.S. national anthems. The Army's Fife and Drum Corps, dressed in the uniforms of the Revolutionary Continental Army, paraded as well.

Members of the cabinets of both countries as well as some 1,500 other guests crowded the lawn as the ceremony began.

Later, President Fox went to Capitol Hill where he made the same challenge to members of Congress.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Fox used his opening remarks of a three-day state visit to the White House to call for an agreement on immigration before the end of this very year that would allow he and President Bush by the time they leave office to make sure that there are no Mexicans who have not...
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Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM
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