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Bilateral Meeting Between Mexico, US Focuses on Immigration - 2002-11-27

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is committed to resolving issues on immigration with Mexico, but that an accord on immigration will take some time. The issue of immigration was at center stage during bilateral meetings in the Mexican capital on Tuesday.

In a joint news conference with Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda after the close of the binational commission meetings, Secretary of State Powell said the need to protect U.S. borders from terrorists has complicated the immigration issue. He said the United States seeks a balanced approach, whereby terrorists can be kept out, but some Mexican workers can be allowed in to live and work legally there. He said immigration is a subject of ongoing discussion between the United States and the government of Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Mr. Powell said the Mexican people should know that the United States has not forgotten them. "There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a priority for President Bush, just as it is a priority for President Fox, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to move forward," he said.

In a speech to open the annual binational commission meeting earlier in the day, President Fox challenged the United States to accelerate the process to create a migration framework. He said such an agreement should "clearly distinguish between those who arrive in that country to work and those who could represent a threat."

But the impatience evident in Mr. Fox's tone contrasted with the remarks by Mr. Powell and by President Bush, who addressed the meeting participants in a video tape presentation. Mr. Bush emphasized the need for cabinet members from the two nations to work together on policies that make migration "legal, orderly and safe."

The binational commission meeting also included discussions of recent U.S. agricultural subsidies and the impact they could have on Mexican farmers. The United States also reiterated its complaint about Mexico's failure to deliver water into the Rio Grande river, which forms the border with the U.S. state of Texas, in compliance with a 1944 treaty. Secretary of State Powell said the shortage of water from the river has had a terrible impact on south Texas farmers.

Other participants in the meeting included U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mexican Interior Minister Santiago Creel, who discussed law enforcement issues. Also present were both nations' top officials in the areas of education, transportation, labor and environment.

The binational commission is a cabinet-level body that has met annually since 1981, alternating meeting sites between the United States and Mexico.