Mexican President Vicente Fox is in the western US state of Utah where he is beginning a four-day visit to the United States that will also include the states of Washington and California. His visit comes as the US senate in Washington debates immigration reform, a topic of great concern to millions of Mexican citizens who live north of the border.
Before leaving Mexico, President Fox laid out the main reasons for his trip and made pains to include the immigration issue as just one of them.
He said he would meet with the governors of the states he is visiting to discuss investment and trade as well as the immigration reform proposals now before the US Congress. He said he would meet with business leaders and representatives of the Mexican-American communities to discuss these themes, but that, when it comes to the immigration issue, he would respect the sovereignty of the United States.
That is a touchy point, especially with US citizens who favor more enforcement on the border and who oppose any plan to legalize immigrants who broke the law to enter the country. The Minuteman Project, which has deployed citizen patrols on the border, plans to protest the Fox visit.
Mexican political analysts say the Fox trip could bolster the president and his party, the National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of the July 2 presidential election, by showing Fox is concerned about Mexican citizens living in the United States. But political observers on this side of the border say the visit could backfire if US lawmakers perceive it as an effort by a foreign leader to influence their decision on immigration reform.
Spokesmen for President Fox say he will hold no news conferences and will answer no questions from reporters on this trip. Some critics accuse him of trying to avoid hard questions about why his country is pushing for legalization of illegal immigrants here in the United States, most of whom are from Mexico, while it maintains one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world. But defenders of the Mexican leader say he is wise to avoid making public statements or answering any questions on immigration since anything he says could be seen as meddling in US domestic affairs.
In addition to meeting with government, business and civic leaders in Utah, President Fox plans to visit with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, members of which are called Mormons. The church has its headquarters in Salt Lake City and the majority of people in Utah are members. Mormon missionaries have also converted thousands of Mexicans in recent decades.
On Wednesday, President Fox will travel to Washington state, where he will, among other things, go out into an agricultural area to talk with Mexican immigrant laborers. On Thursday, Fox will meet with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the capital in Sacramento and then go to Los Angeles to meet with the city's Mexican-American mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.