Mexican President Vicente Fox spends the rest of this week visiting U.S. states that border his country. He is attempting to promote trade and a possible immigration accord with the United States. However, Mr. Fox says he is willing to move slowly and cautiously in promoting an agreement with the United States.
Speaking to foreign reporters on the eve of his trip, President Fox said the primary purpose of the visit to the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona is to promote commerce and better relations. He said immigration would also be an issue on the agenda.
Mr. Fox said he will not be going to the U.S. border states with any concrete proposals on immigration because it is an issue that must be discussed at the federal level. He also cautioned against raising any expectations over an accord, saying that his government intends to work with Washington in the months ahead in the hopes of making progress on the issue.
The immigration issue has been a priority for Mr. Fox since he took office in December 2000. The estimated four million Mexicans who reside illegally in the United States, along with millions more who have legal status, sent back around $12 billion to families back home last year.
These remittances surpass all but the petroleum industry as a source of foreign exchange for Mexico. Immigration advocates say the workers perform tasks most U.S. workers will not do and thereby contribute to the U.S. economy. Their presence north of the border also takes pressure off Mexico, which has failed to produce enough jobs to meet the demands of a growing population.
President Fox said he would like an agreement to provide some form of legal standing for undocumented Mexican workers who are already in the United States and the establishment of a mechanism to promote a normal flow of migrant workers back and forth across the border. The Mexican leader indicated that after meeting with President Bush at the recent meeting of Asian and Pacific leaders in Thailand, he feels optimistic that talks on the immigration theme will move forward.
During his trip this week, Mr. Fox said he would discuss the matter of human rights with officials in the border states where there have been some reports of mistreatment of migrants. He also said his country is working to improve the human rights situation for Central American migrants who cross into Mexico in an effort to go north to the U.S. border.
He said he has invited all the nations in Central America to open consulates in southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, so that they can better monitor the treatment of their citizens who cross over into Mexico.