President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox visited the U.S. state of Ohio Thursday where they spoke to university students and visited a Hispanic community center.
Immigration remains the central issue of this first official state visit. President Fox wants a deal on immigration by the end of the year to address the needs of more than three million undocumented Mexican workers in the United States. It is a message he took to a joint meeting of Congress Thursday morning and one he repeated in the afternoon at the University of Toledo.
"It is a time for a commitment and hard work," President Fox said. "Let us not pass lightly over the countless sorrows and exemplary efforts of so many men and women who we call migrants. We must find the resolve and act quickly so that we can find shared solutions to this common problem."
President Bush opposes a general amnesty for illegal Mexican workers, but he clearly wants to come to some sort of agreement with President Fox that would protect the rights of undocumented Mexicans without appearing to reward illegal immigration. Mr. Bush would not commit to the Mexican leader's timetable but did say he would speed up the process.
Some members of Congress from both political parties oppose the move, saying it would reward people for entering the country illegally and is unfair to those waiting for proper visas. Supporters say an amnesty would protect the labor rights of currently undocumented Mexican workers who are not guaranteed a minimum wage.
President Bush says it is not about politics or economics, it is about showing respect for people who come to America looking for a better life for their family. "I know there is a lot of talk about Mexican laborers coming to the United States, but I want to remind my fellow citizens of this fact: family values do not stop at the Rio Bravo. There are mothers and dads in Mexico who love their children just as much as mothers and dads in America do, and if they are a mother or dad who can't find work, worried about food on the table, they are going to come and find work in America," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush says solving the immigration problem means helping Mexico develop a larger middle class to expand economic opportunities there so fewer people feel the need to leave for a better life elsewhere.
In a joint statement, the two leaders announced plans to form a public-private "Partnership for Prosperity" that will look for ways to increase economic growth in Mexico as a way to slow migration. That panel would submit an action plan to the leaders by next March.
President Bush and President Fox also urged Congress to remove legislation blocking Mexican trucks from moving freely on American roads as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. If that language is included in an appropriations bill sent to the White House, Mr. Bush says he will veto it.