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Mexicans React with Anger and Shame to US Congressional Approval of Border Wall

A proposed wall along the US/Mexico border has prompted concern among many Mexicans, who fear a coming crackdown on undocumented workers in the United States. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, some Mexicans also feel shame that their country has failed to provide jobs for so many of its citizens.

For the past week newspaper headlines in Mexico have described the proposed wall as an atrocity, a xenophobic and racist measure and worse. President Vicente Fox and other members of his government have condemned the proposal in strong terms.

But some political analysts have taken a calmer approach, noting that the wall idea is likely to be dropped when the US senate meets early next year to consider a more general immigration reform package that would include the guest worker program proposed by President Bush.

In a VOA interview, former Foreign Secretary and Finance Minister Jose Angel Gurria says he believes US lawmakers will recognize the need for immigrant labor and try to develop a proposal that meets that need as well as the need for border security.

"In fact President Bush's initiative had some elements of putting some order in the process and then the lower house really went to a very hostile version, which I very strongly hope and actually believe is not going to pass and is going to be modified by the senate and produce something more reasonable and more balanced that takes into account the realities. Walls are not the solution, walls are not the answer. It is not going to work," he said.

Mr. Gurria, who next June takes over as Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says Mexico must shoulder much of the blame for the friction with the United States over immigration.

"We in Mexico, obviously, should do a better job of providing jobs within Mexico so that we do not have this escape valve, if you will, that is migration," he said.

Political consultant Pedro Javier Gonzalez says Mexico would need to create at least one million jobs a year to keep up with its growing population, but that political leaders have failed to make that happen.

"The economy has not been able to grow at the rate it could grow and it needs to grow. The problem with the Mexican economy is that we are losing a lot of competitive capacity, competitive ability. Mexico has not been able to respond in an adequate way to its political challenges in terms of making the reforms the Mexican economy needs badly," he said.

Mr. Gonzalez says Mexico would have benefited from fiscal, labor and energy reform proposals presented to Congress by President Fox five years ago. Opposition parties blocked the proposals and, with a new presidential election coming in July, there is no hope of reviving them now.

Still, Mr. Gonzalez says, the tough approach to immigration passed by the US House of Representatives will not solve the problem and could, in fact, make it worse.

"The United States, as a sovereign state, has the right to legislate about immigration, but the very idea of building a wall is an expression of xenophobia in the American society, which in the long run will be useless in terms of stopping illegal immigration into the United States," he said.

Mr. Gonzalez argues that as long as there are jobs for them in the United States, Mexican migrants will find a way around, over or even under any wall that is built. He expresses the hope that political leaders in Washington will find a better approach to the problem.