Tags: U.S. | Has | Immigration | 'Principles' | Place

U.S. Has Immigration 'Principles' in Place

Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM

"It's a very difficult, a tough issue, and we've got to do it right, not do it fast," Powell said at a joint news conference with Mexican Secretary of State Jorge Castenada.

"This is not an all or nothing deal," Castenada agreed. "This is such an important issue, as Secretary Powell said, that we have to do it slowly, we have to do it right, and we have to do it constructively and realistically."

Powell's assessment, on the eve of a three-day state visit by Mexican President Vicente Fox that begins today, further dampens expectations of what President Bush and Fox will be able to announce Thursday after their meetings and a joint Cabinet session of the two governments.

In February, when Bush and Fox met in Guanajuato, Mexico, they ordered their governments to engage in "formal high-level negotiations aimed at achieving short- and long-term agreements that will allow us to constructively address migration and labor issues between our two countries."

Powell and Castenada are the key negotiators on immigration in one of seven Cabinet working groups between the United States and Mexican cabinets. The others deal with subjects from NAFTA to narcotics trafficking. Greater progress was made on issues besides immigration at meetings in anticipation of the Bush-Fox summit.

Powell said the two nations have "finalized an agreement on food safety involving the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and the Mexican Secretariats of Health and Agriculture."

He said they also signed a "memorandum of understanding" on sharing assets that are confiscated from criminal organizations and agreed on two new border crossings. "We agreed that U.S. and Mexican counselors along the border should meet more regularly on improving border safety coordination."

The Guanajuato communiqué in February sparked expectations in both countries that a "guest worker" program and perhaps an amnesty for the 7 million to 9 million illegal aliens in the United States, of which an estimated 4.5 million are Mexican, might be forthcoming when they met again this fall. Over the six months, however, the Bush administration has encountered enormous barriers to these changes.

Senior members of the president's own party have flatly resisted any program that might give citizenship to illegal aliens. The problems and difficulties of a guest worker program have proven unusually complex, a senior administration official acknowledged. Other Republicans have said the United States must change its whole immigration and naturalization process before they can consider changing the immigration rules.

In August, Bush ruled out an amnesty program, and his aides indicated that steps in the near term would be "modest."

President Fox, too, seemed to recognize the intractability of the immigration issue recently when he remarked that it might take "four to six years" to overcome the difficult issues of the enormous migration from Mexico to the United States.

Castenada said his president was referring to the end of Bush administration and the end of Fox's only possible administration (he can serve only one term.)

"That is when he hopes to finish dealing with the whole plethora of issues, relating to immigration" Castenada said. "This is not a deadline for an agreement, but simply a deadline in order to resolve all the issues having to do with a 100-year-old problem."

According to a senior administration official, Fox has been working on a plan to obtain temporary work rights in the United States for Mexicans in the vast agricultural belt of central and south Mexico. The economy of this agricultural area has been devastated and is the area from which millions of illegal aliens have streamed north to cross the U.S. border.

Fox would suggest these people be allowed to "qualify" for jobs in the United States, where they would gain skills and return to Mexico to help that country's economy. The jobs would be under specific rules and durations, and the migrants would not be eligible for citizenship.

There is enormous resistance to guest worker programs in the United States, where many people complain that the "guest workers" never leave and violate the arrangements under which they come. George J. Borjas, a Harvard professor and noted expert on immigration, calls it the "dirty little secret" about such programs - that they are tantamount to increasing immigration.

The state visit will have all the trappings of a Washington presidential welcome, including Bush's first state dinner at the White House and a dinner Thursday night at Blair House where Bush and his wife will be feted by Fox and his new bride.

The president and Fox will also visit Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday, where they will give joint addresses at two events. Fox leaves Washington on Friday.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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It's a very difficult, a tough issue, and we've got to do it right, not do it fast, Powell said at a joint news conference with Mexican Secretary of State Jorge Castenada. This is not an all or nothing deal, Castenada agreed. This is such an important issue, as...
Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM
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