U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says Mexico and the United States need to secure their border before the U.S. Congress will approve any measure to grant more immigrants legal passage into the United States. James Blears has more for VOA from Mexico City, where Chertoff was on an official visit.
Speaking Friday in Mexico City, Chertoff stressed that the 3,200 kilometer border between Mexico and the United States must be controlled in a way that meets the needs of both countries.
"It's obviously in the economic and security interests of both of our countries to improve security at the border," he said. "When disorder reigns, when there's violence or when there's drug smuggling, the people who suffer are the Mexicans and Americans on both sides."
Chertoff said it is vital that border security be flexible so that it does not hinder trade and commerce, while at the same time preventing passage by terrorists, migrant smugglers and members of drug cartels.
Mexico has for years been pushing for an immigration accord with the United States. U.S. President George Bush has proposed a guest-worker program that would allow Mexicans living abroad to seek temporary work visas, but the program has not won support in Congress.
In a speech Friday to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City, Chertoff praised Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, for his decisive approach to organized crime and the extradition of drug cartel leaders to the United States to face U.S. justice. Chertoff said Calderon's fight against drug-related violence will benefit people on both sides of the border.