Mexico will present its proposals to U.S. officials at a high-level meeting in Washington on Wednesday, the first of what is expected to be a series of negotiations in pursuit of an improved immigration relationship.
In a sign of the importance of this goal, Bush has assigned Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft to represent the United States, and Mexican President Vicente Fox has assigned Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castaneda and Interior Minister Santiago Creel, the Post said.
Castaneda said Mexico has four main areas of concern: "regularizing" conditions for illegal workers; improving safety for Mexicans crossing the border, who face dangers ranging from dehydration to vigilantes; raising the number of permanent visas the United States allots to Mexico; and creating a guest-worker program that would ensure decent working conditions.
"We are not saying that we want all the rights to become available to Mexicans overnight," Castaneda said. "It is not all or nothing."
Mexican officials said Fox wants to focus on step-by-step, practical improvements in the lives of Mexican immigrants in the United States, such as the ability to get a driver's license, rent an apartment or – most important – live without fear of expulsion by U.S. authorities.
In an interview, Fox stressed that he is not necessarily seeking permanent residency or U.S. citizenship for these people, just a status that allows them to remain legally in the United States for a certain time to work and to enjoy other legal rights and protections.
"Their jobs must be recognized, must be legalized," he said. "And this does not have anything to do with them becoming Americans. Maybe they don't even want to become Americans. They just want to work," the Post reported.
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