Fox to press case for migration accord
Mexican president will seek state, local support in effort to make a deal
By LAURENCE ILIFF and ALFREDO CORCHADO / The Dallas Morning News
MEXICO CITY – President Vicente Fox said Monday that he will lobby state
and local governments this week in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to support
eventual U.S.-Mexico migration accord, in addition to working with Congress and the Bush administration.
The Sept. 11 attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism halted momentum
on a possible migration deal. But because the Bush administration has agreed
to restart the
negotiations, Mr. Fox said, Mexico is exploring ways to achieve an agreement.
Mr. Fox, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, said "we're moving
on three roads in a parallel fashion. One, the conversations we've already
with the federal government, with President Bush's government. Second, the initiatives that are in the U.S. Congress and that have to do with migration issues.
"And third, we are also very interested in talking with local governments, with governors, with mayors, with the communities and the leaders about the migration issues. It's a federal matter, but it's in all of our best interest to discuss it at a local level, too," he said.
Mr. Fox did not say, however, whether he could support a congressional immigration bill that might not have Mr. Bush's backing.
For example, a bipartisan group of U.S. legislators is promoting three separate bills that would create a "guest worker" program for Mexican migrants. The first could lead to the legal recognition of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. The others would only allow them to work on a temporary basis.
The Bush administration has yet to endorse or reject any of them.
Mr. Fox will spend one day each in Phoenix, Santa Fe and Austin from Tuesday to Thursday.
Two previously scheduled trips to Texas were canceled in the last two years
because of acrimony over
such issues as the execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of killing a Dallas police officer and the ongoing border dispute over a water treaty.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox took office within two months of each other nearly
three years ago, promising that their close relationship and a new understanding
the nations would lead to an immigration accord and progress on other bilateral issues.
But the terrorist attacks in the United States, the war against terrorism and Mr. Fox's opposition to the Iraq war have complicated the relationship.
Mr. Fox, who became the first president from an opposition party in
71 years, campaigned heavily on his promise to defend Mexican immigrants.
Mexico has said it
wanted millions of workers living illegally in the United States to receive legal status. The Bush administration has said that it favored the orderly flow of workers
across the border, but it has opposed talk of a general amnesty.
The migration issue, Mr. Fox said, remains Mexico's top bilateral priority and his major focus during the swing through the U.S. Southwest.
Still, there would be no false hopes of a quick deal, Mr. Fox said Monday
during a separate briefing with foreign correspondents. "We have our feet
on the ground," he said.
A new round of migration talks will start Nov. 12, when Cabinet members from the nations hold their annual meeting in Washington.
Mr. Fox will make his case to immigrants in the Southwest as well, but is likely to receive both cheers and protests.
In New Mexico, Mr. Fox is expected to be greeted by protesters irate
about the serial killings of women in the state of Chihuahua, as well as
allegations that torture
was used to elicit false confessions. An upcoming U.N. report takes Mexico to task for failing to eradicate police torture.
During the interview with The News, Mr. Fox said, "I feel very comfortable
and very proud that at the level of the federal government we have eliminated
all of these
At the same time, Mr. Fox said he was interested in hearing "specific cases" of alleged torture at the state or local level.
In Texas, Mr. Fox might hear about Mexico's unsuccessful attempts to
repay its water debt under a decades-old treaty. Texas farmers don't accept
argument that it doesn't have water to spare because of drought.
Gov. Rick Perry will probably express his discontent that Mexican consulates
have been issuing identification cards known as matriculas to illegal immigrants.
say the cards, recognized by institutions such as banks and state and local governments, legitimize illegal immigration and undermine security.
But it's in Arizona where Mr. Fox will probably meet the strongest resistance.
Some state legislators are expected to protest his visit because of their
Mr. Fox said he received an "enthusiastic invitation" from Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, business leaders and Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans.
The way of democracy
"I respect different opinions," Mr. Fox said at the news briefing. "That's the way democracy works."
Some analysts said Mr. Fox should be careful during his U.S. visit not
to press the immigration issue above all others. The White House, they
said, prefers quiet
diplomacy on the subject.
"It's interesting to note that [U.S. National Security Adviser] Condoleezza
Rice has twice downplayed the issue," said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director
Mexico Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Fox has to raise the issue in a way that doesn't dominate the trip. That will be