Mexico's president says he can envision a day when immigration controls would be eliminated among the United States, Canada and Mexico. President Vicente Fox's comments follow a proposal by U.S. President George Bush to overhaul U.S. immigration policy.
President Fox said the Bush administration's immigration initiative that would grant temporary work visas to millions of undocumented workers in the United States is a step in the right direction.
Appearing on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday, the Mexican leader was asked if he would favor scrubbing immigration barriers entirely between the United States and Mexico so that people on both sides of the border could live and work wherever they choose. "On the long, long-term, I think, yes, that would be the best for our two nations - or our three nations, including Canada. On the long term, this North American bloc can be the leading bloc of the world and be the most competitive bloc by working together and, through that, be able to keep increasing the quality and level of life of our citizens," he said.
Mr. Fox said Mexico never had any expectation of a blanket U.S. amnesty for illegal immigrants in the United States that would put undocumented workers on a path to U.S. citizenship. He said Mexicans who work in the United States remain proud of their heritage and their nationality, but are compelled by economic necessity to look for employment north of the border.
For years, Mexico has pressed the United States to grant some form of legal status to the millions of undocumented Mexicans who work and pay taxes in the United States. Last week, President Bush proposed granting three-year labor visas to illegal immigrants who apply for them. The visas would be renewable, but would not entitle holders to any special consideration for U.S. citizenship.
Some critics say the Bush administration proposal effectively rewards people for breaking U.S. immigration laws. Others say the proposal does not go far enough to address the needs of undocumented workers.
President Fox meets with President Bush Monday on the sidelines of the Special Summit of the Americas, which President Fox is hosting this week in Monterey, Mexico. Immigration is one of several topics that will likely be discussed. Trade issues will also be high on the summit agenda, including the proposed hemisphere-wide Free Trade Area of the Americas, which proponents hope to enact by the year 2005.