Fox promotes immigration overhaul in speech to Congress

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox pressed his case for immigration overhaul to Congress on Thursday, urging greater trust between neighbors as the basis for "a new partnership in North America."

Fox told a joint session of the Senate and House, "The time has come for Mexico and the United States to trust each other."

"Trust will be essential to achieve our goals," he said.

The charismatic former Coca-Cola executive, on the second day of a state visit, made his case for opening the way for many of the estimated 3 million Mexicans now in the United States illegally to gain legal status.

On Wednesday, Fox had surprised Bush administration officials by surprise by suggesting that immigration overhaul be completed by the end of this year.

He did not mention such a timetable in his remarks.

Sentiment in Congress runs strong on both sides of the immigration issue. And administration officials have suggested it was unlikely that a formula could be worked out by the end of this year given divisions on the amnesty issue in Congress.

Fox believes those Mexicans in the United States are entitled to legalized status.

In his address, Fox switched back and forth between English and Spanish.

Fox said that he and President Bush in recent months "have already shown our willingness to trust each other by agreeing to discuss this most complex matter."

"As the history of this country shows, migration has always rendered more economic benefits to the United States than the cost it entails."

"Many among you have a parent or a grandparent who came into this country as an immigrant from another land," he said.

And, in remarks aimed at the Mexicans in the United States, Fox said: "Mexico needs you. We need your talent and entrepreneurship. We need you to come home one day and play a part in building a strong Mexico"

He said he recognized that many on both side of the 2,000-mile long border viewed closer ties "risky and perhaps even unwise."

But he said he didn't believe the old adage that "good fences make good neighbors."

"Circumstances have changed. We are now bound closer together... our links are countless and growing," he said.

Turning to the war on drugs, Fox said that "cooperation in the war against drugs "is not a nicety. It is a necessity"

He urged Congress to pass a pending law that would suspend for three years the U.S. law that requires Mexico to obtain an annual certification that it is cooperating on the war of drugs.

Saying the U.S.-Mexican partnership was "still incomplete," Fox said there were still unresolved issues. He noted U.S. restrictions on Mexican trucks.

"No two nations are more important to the immediate prosperity and well being of one another than Mexico and the United States," said.

His speech lasted about 30 minutes. In his address, Fox used the word "trust" at least 25 times.

"Simple trust -- that is what has been sorely absent in our relationship in the past," he said.

Fox's speech was interrupted at least 11 times by applause. From the podium of the House of Representatives, Fox addressed a packed gathering of House and Senate members, the president's Cabinet and a delegation of diplomats.

Fox thanked his audience for the applause and said it was "heard by 100 million Mexicans."

"It is our very firm wish as Mexicans and Americans to establish a new relationship, a more mature, full and equitable relationship based on mutual trust," Fox said.

A Mexican official said last-minute changes were being made in Fox's speech shortly before his arrival at the Capitol.

On the divisive immigration issue, Bush agrees in principle with Fox that Mexican immigrants deserve a better break.

But the two sides have yet to get down to details. There has been no formal discussion of how many Mexicans living illegally in the United States should benefit. Another key change would allow large numbers of Mexicans to cross the border as temporary guest workers.

Bush, toasting Fox at a White House state dinner Wednesday night, said U.S.-Mexican ties "go beyond economics and politics and geography. They are the ties of heritage, culture and family." He said nearly 1 million people cross the border every day, and a quarter trillion dollars worth of trade flows across each year.

Afterward, the Mexican president planned to join Bush on a trip to Toledo, Ohio, a Democratic and union stronghold with a large and growing Hispanic population.

The two presidents were scheduled to visit with children at a Hispanic community center in Toledo, speak at a university and release a joint communique outlining their immigration goals.

One big hurdle immigration reform advocates face is opposition from House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who said last month there is no chance of enacting reform legislation until Congress approves reform of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told Bush on Tuesday he believes the Senate, as a gesture to Fox, should pass a bill to extend the deadline by an extra year for illegal immigrants to apply for visas.

He wants the Senate to act before Fox's departure from Washington on Friday.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: