Bush to offer ideas for economic reforms

Thursday, March 21, 2002

WASHINGTON -- On the eve of his trip to Mexico, Peru and El Salvador, President Bush promised initiatives to ease the plight of would-be illegal immigrants, saying, "There are people in our neighborhood who hurt."

Bush said Wednesday he would stick to a plan to make more than $5 billion in new foreign aid contingent on recipient nations making corruption-fighting economic and political reforms.

"I'm not interested in funding corruption," the president said. "If a country thinks they're going to get aid from the United States, and they're stealing money, they're just not going to get it." Bush leaves today on a four-day trip that begins with a stop at the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas. From there, he continues on to Monterrey, Mexico, for two days of meetings related to a U.N. conference on aid to developing countries.

His state visit to Lima, Peru, on Saturday will mark the first time a U.S. president has visited that newborn Andean democracy. Before returning to Washington late Sunday, Bush will stop in El Salvador's capital, San Salvador, for talks with President Francisco Flores.

As evidence of his administration's commitment to its southern neighbors, aides said Bush will announce in Mexico minor new initiatives aimed at creating jobs in the poorest areas of Mexico that send so many undocumented immigrants across the border in search of a better life.

The president had hoped to carry with him on the trip a freshly minted law granting limited amnesty to many illegal immigrants working in the United States.

But he has been unable to push through the Senate a House-passed bill to extend the deadline for immigrants to apply for residency without leaving the United States.

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