President Bush is hosting Mexican President Vicente Fox at the White House for a state visit designed to dramatize the close ties between their two countries. Their talks on immigration, trade, border control, and other issues began after a traditional arrival ceremony on the White House lawn.
President Fox was welcomed with full military honors, standing side-by-side with Mr. Bush under bright blue skies. This is the first state visit of the Bush presidency a sign of the importance this White House places on ties with Mexico. "The starting point of a sound foreign policy is to build a stable and prosperous neighborhood with good relations amongst neighbors," Mr. Bush said.
President Bush called Vicente Fox a Mexican patriot, adding the United States is proud to stand by his side as a neighbor and a friend. "We understand that our two nations must work together in a spirit of respect and common purpose to seize opportunities and tackle challenges on the issues that affect the lives of our citizens including migration, the environment, drugs, crime, corruption and education," he said.
Immigration is the lead topic of this summit. Earlier this year, the two leaders indicated they wanted to sign some sort of agreement in Washington. At the arrival ceremony, Mr. Fox expressed the hope they could find a solution to the immigration problem by the end of the year.
President Fox said the time has come to give migrants their proper place in both U.S. and Mexican history. They must be recognized, he stressed, as hard workers and human beings.
But there is reluctance in the United States Congress to approve any change in U.S. law that would enable illegal Mexican immigrants to achieve legal status.
Congress is also dealing with an issue related to the North American Free Trade Agreement, whether or not to permit long-haul Mexican trucks on American roads. And some legislators are urging the House and Senate to take a hard look at a law that requires the President of the United States to certify that foreign governments are cooperating in the war on drugs. The annual certification process has created strains with Mexico. And in his arrival comments, President Fox vowed to strengthen cooperation in fighting drugs and organized crime.
Vicente Fox will get a chance to make his case in person before lawmakers on Thursday when he addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. congress. A joint communique will be issued when he returns to the White House later in the day to accompany President Bush on a brief trip to the state of Ohio.