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Mexico's Fox Begins U.S. Trip in Utah

Associated Press | May 23, 2006
By BROCK VERGAKIS

SALT LAKE CITY

To some, Mexican President Vicente Fox's visit to the United States is a sign of hope to Hispanics as Congress debates immigration policy. To others, it is an opportunity to rally again in support of tightening the border. Fox begins his five-day trip in Utah on Tuesday before moving on to Washington state and California.

The president is scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City at 2:30 p.m. EDT. He's expected to spend three days in Utah.

Immigration is a major focus of Fox's trip as the U.S. Senate considers legislation to strengthen border security, authorize new guest-worker programs and give an eventual chance at citizenship to most of the estimated 12 million people already living illegally in the United States.

Fox was expected to arrive in Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon for the three-day visit, beginning his trip in a state that like many, is divided on immigration. While Utah's largest minority population is Hispanic, there also is growing frustration about the wave of illegal immigrants entering the state.

Jorge Fierro, a Mexican citizen who has lived in Utah since 1986, hopes Fox addresses how he and future leaders can improve the lives of Mexicans. Fierro, who is catering an address Fox is scheduled to make at Rico's Market, opened his first bean stand in 1997 and now sells Mexican food products in supermarkets throughout Utah.

"This is going to boost our morale now that our brothers and sisters are facing uncertainty in their future," Fierro said.

The Minuteman Project, which opposes illegal immigration, is planning protests at the Capitol, where Fox is scheduled to address a special session of the Legislature on Wednesday.

"I'd like to see Vicente Fox tell his people to respect the law and come here legally," said Alex Segura, founder of the Utah Minuteman Project.

Fox's itinerary for Tuesday included a luncheon speech to business and civic leaders and a stop at the Utah Cultural Center. A state dinner is planned Tuesday evening.

He'll also have a private meeting Wednesday with Republican Gov. John Huntsman. Huntsman supports President Bush's plan to send as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border and says it's important for Fox to see firsthand the frustrations Western states feel when it comes to illegal immigrants burdening health care and prison systems.

Fox also is expected to meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The majority of Utah residents are Mormon, as is the Legislature and Huntsman. The Mormon church also has a strong presence in Mexico, where in 2004 membership exceeded 106 million _ or one in every 105 Mexican nationals.

On Thursday, Fox is scheduled to address a joint session of the California Legislature and meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It will be Schwarzenegger's first meeting with Fox since he became governor in 2003. Fox also is expected to meet with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

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