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Mexican President-Elect Seeks White House Support on Immigration


is visiting the United States and met with President Bush at the White House Thursday. The two leaders discussed the immigration issue, among other things, and both said they favored a comprehensive approach to the question. But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, people favoring strict enforcement of immigration laws and tougher border security have vowed to keep on fighting.

At a brief appearance with reporters after their meeting, President Bush and President-elect Calderon both emphasized their desire to maintain good relations between their countries and signaled that an immigration accord would enhance those relations. President Bush said he will continue his push for a guest worker program as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

"We talked, of course, about migration and I assured the president-elect that the words I said in the very oval office that we sit about a comprehensive immigration vision are words I still believe strongly," Mr. Bush said.

The president's use of the word migration is sure to ruffle the feathers of many critics of his immigration policy because that word is often used by groups who see the influx of Mexicans across the border as part of the natural flow of labor. The word is also used by groups who believe Mexicans have a special right to come to the United States since much of the land in the American southwest was part of Mexico and was taken by the United States after the war with Mexico that ended in 1848.

For his part, Mr. Calderon expressed satisfaction with President Bush's position. He said they had spoken honestly about the theme of immigration and that President Bush had been very open in listening to the Mexican arguments and that he underscored his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.

On Wednesday, President Bush told reporters he believes the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections will help him achieve immigration reform because many of the Democrats elected to the new Congress favor a guest worker program.

But opponents of the proposal say they will continue to fight for enforcement of current immigration laws and a tightening of border security.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, says many of the newly elected Democrats may demand better border enforcement before considering a guest worker program. "You have to remember that many of the people who were elected this week were elected on a platform of enforcement of immigration laws. I am not aware of any of the newly elected Democrats who campaigned on a platform of amnesty and more guest workers," he said.

Mehlman says the real problem that drives immigration is poverty in Mexico and the tendency of successive Mexican governments to see the United States as an escape valve for poor workers who can travel north. "If people become angry enough at the failure of the Mexican government to address their needs then it is their right to change things there and, in the long run, that is what is going to have to happen," he said.

Spokesmen for Mr. Calderon say he does recognize the role poverty has played in driving his countrymen to illegally cross the border. They say he favors economic reforms that would create more jobs and better salaries for Mexicans in Mexico. But when Calderon assumes office on December first, he will have to deal with a country that is politically divided and, at least in the short term, unable to provide the jobs that would keep Mexican workers home.

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