Mexico's president visits the White House
WASHINGTON—Immigration reforms to help Mexican workers topped the agenda during Mexican President Vicente Fox's state visit to the United States Sept. 5-6.
Speaking alongside President Bush at the White House, Fox declared, “We must and we can reach an agreement on migration before the end of this very year which will allow us, before the end of our respective terms, 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 the proper documents,” Associated Press reported.
Fox's comments drew praise from advocates of legalization for the estimated 3 million illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States, but the proposal obviously caught Bush off guard. Before their meetings, Bush had warned that the complexity of the issue prevented any quick solutions and he acknowledged that he has “a lot more selling to do” in Congress of his plan to give legal status to Mexican immigrants.
Bush distanced himself from Fox's bold call to action, jokingly telling reporters in Spanish that “I can't hear” when they pressed him on whether he shared the desire to have a plan in place before the end of the year. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice, added, “The president shares the desire to do this as quickly as possible but to do it right.”
A joint statement released Sept. 6 as Bush and Fox visited Toledo, Ohio, struck a much less ambitous tone. It merely committed the two presidents to forging a “realistic approach to migration” that respects “the human dignity of all migrants, regardless of their [legal] status.”
The Senate, in a signal of support for Fox's immigration agenda, passed a bill Sept. 7 to extend the deadline for illegal immigrants to apply for visas.
Yet, House conservatives remain firmly opposed to legalization.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., chairman of the congressional immigration reform caucus, said the federal government should not reward those who “forget about American law, sneak into the country and avoid detection,” Associated Press reported.
The vast majority of the undocumented Mexican immigrants are Catholic, so the issue is of major concern to the U.S. bishops. The United States and Mexico should “seize the moment” and support the legalization of undocumented Mexicans and people from other countries living in the United States, said Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Camden, N.J., the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.
Also needed are “principles for legalizing the flow of migrants into the United States,” said the bishop in a statement issued Sept. 4 on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop DiMarzio said Fox's Sept. 5-6 visit is a “historic opportunity” to redefine migration policies.
He urged both presidents “to take bold action by calling for a legalization program for Mexicans and other nationalities who have built lives in our country and who have contributed their skills and hard labor” to bettering the United States.
The White House released four “guiding principles” Sept. 7 that it said are underpinning Bush's current effort to come up with the sort of comprehensive reform advocated by Bishop DiMarzio.
The four principles are: First, a “humane approach,” mandating that U.S.-Mexico migration “must be safe, legal, orderly, and dignified"; second, the “protection of American workers,” requiring that reforms to the immigration system “must not disadvantage American workers"; third, “fairness,” rewarding “immigrants who follow the rules and abide by the law"; and fourth, “commitment from Mexico,” inviting Mexico “join the United States in an authentic partnership to keep our shared borders orderly and safe, and ensure the integrity and success of any new policies.”
Fox said that he and Bush were working together to reform U.S. immigration laws, and the Mexican president lavished praise on his American counterpart, Reuters reported.
Said Fox, “[Bush] is a person with sensitivity, apart from having leadership and vision.
He is fond of Mexico and Mexicans, and he wants to help us in achieving all these things and regularizing the situation of our countrymen there.”