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Mexican President Presses Bush On Guest Worker Program

NY Times | March 13, 2007
JIM RUTENBERG

President Felipe Calderón of Mexico used a welcoming ceremony for President Bush here today to voice his opposition to the security fence the United States is building along their shared border.

Wasting no time in pointing up the tensions between Washington and Mexico City, Mr. Calderón also urged Mr. Bush to move more aggressively to create a temporary-worker program. Such a program would decriminalize the millions of Mexicans and others who enter the United States illegally to fill low-paying jobs.

Mr. Calderón said his countrymen “fully respect the right that the government and the people of the United States of America have to decide, within its territory, what will be best for their concerns and security.”

But he said the resources devoted to the security fence would better be used on development: “We do consider in a respectful way that we may more truly stop the migration by building a kilometer of highway in Michoac or Zacatecas than 10 kilometers of walls” on the border.

In his Calderón remarks welcoming Mr. Bush, given at a 17th-century farmhouse that has been converted into a hotel 28 miles outside Mérida, the largest city in the Yucatán peninsula, Mr. Calderón also addressed two other prickly issues with Mexico's northern neighbor: The perception, widespread here, that the United States has neglected Mexico in the age of terrorism, and the vast American demand for illegal drugs, which fuels criminal violence in Mexico.

“In a meeting like this one,” Mr. Calderón said to Mr. Bush, “you expressed some years ago that there is no relationship all over the world that is more relevant to the United States than that one that you have with Mexico.” It was understandable that the Sept. 11 attacks led to some changes in national priorities in the United States, he said, but “nevertheless, I believe that it is now time to retake the spirit of those words, and to direct our relationship toward a path of mutual prosperity.”

Mr. Calderón, who has made cracking down on crime a high priority for his administration, restated his commitment to fight “against those who wish to poison the bodies and the souls of our young population” through drug trafficking.

“In order to be successful in our struggle, we need the collaboration and the active participation of our neighbor,” he continued, because so long as demand for drugs remains undiminished in the United States, “ it will be very difficult to reduce the supply” in Mexico. At the start of a day that is to include sightseeing at the spectacular Mayan ruins near this city as well as meetings with Mr. Calderón, Mr. Bush pledged to pursue a new immigration policy with the new Democratic-controlled Congress, but he subtly defended his support for stricter border enforcement.

“The United States respects the rule of law,” Mr. Bush said. “But in the debate on migration, I remind my fellow citizens that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, that there are decent, hardworking honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families.”

Turning to Mr. Calderón, Mr. Bush added, “Because we're working together, I believe we will make good progress on this important issue. Together, we're working to ensure that we have a secure and modern border that speeds the legitimate flow of people and commerce, and stops those who threaten our common safety and prosperity.”

 
 

 

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