President Bush is in Mexico for two days of talks intended to help mend frayed U.S. - Mexican ties. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Merida, that Mr. Bush is pledging action on an issue of prime importance to the Mexicans, immigration.
The visit began with a reminder from Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Speaking through an interpreter at a sun-drenched arrival ceremony at an old country estate, President Calderon said the Bush administration began with a vow to make Latin America a priority, a vow that was broken after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
"Unfortunately, the terrible happenings against the United States people made, in a very understandable way, the priorities change," said Mr. Calderon. " Nevertheless, I believe that it is now time to retake the spirit of those words and to direct our relationship towards a path of mutual prosperity."
Mr. Calderon emphasized the need for action on illegal immigration. He said the U.S. is rich in capital and Mexico is rich in labor, and both countries need to find an answer to the problem.
"I know the pain of the families when they split, and also of all those towns where the elderly remain alone," he said. "I also know that Mexicans lose in each migrant, the best of our people."
He said Mexico needs to tackle the issue by building its economy and creating new jobs. He said America must implement comprehensive immigration reform. But he stressed a new law authorizing funding for a fence of physical and high-tech barriers along the U.S. Mexican border is not the answer.
President Bush did not mention the fence in his remarks at the arrival ceremony. But he did promise to do all he can to get an immigration reform bill, complete with a guest worker program, through the U.S. Congress.
"So Mr. President, my pledge to you and your government, but more importantly, to the people of Mexico is I will work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform," said Mr. Bush.
In addition to immigration, the two leaders said they will discuss narco-trafficking and steps to combat poverty in Mexico. President Calderon called it a complex agenda, President Bush called it ambitious. But both said the relationship between the two countries is important, and stressed they must work together.
"Geography has made us neighbors, but the choice we made for each other is a choice for freedom, and that choice has made us friends," added president Bush.
There have been scattered protests in Merida during President Bush's visit, but they have been small, especially when compared to those seen earlier in his Latin American tour.
Mr. Bush's travels have taken him to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, and Guatemala. He heads home from Mexico on Wednesday.