President Bush visited Mexico on Tuesday, the last stop on his five-country tour of Latin America, and vowed to push Congress to change U.S. immigration policies. Two regional experts discuss the president's visit and the future of Mexican trade and immigration.
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It was all smiles today, as President Bush and Mexican president Felipe Calderon ate lunch together at a Yucatan Peninsula luxury hotel. But the pleasantries scarcely papered over deep tensions in the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
Mexican anger at the U.S., like that displayed during anti-Bush protests last night, was exacerbated last fall, when President Bush signed a law authorizing a 700-mile security fence along the two countries' shared border. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants cross that border into the U.S. each year.
President Calderon has compared the fence to the Berlin Wall and said economic development in Mexico offers a better way to stem illegal migration.
Today, with President Bush at his side, Calderon took a less scathing tone, but he expressed his opposition bluntly.
FELIPE CALDERON, President of Mexico (through translator): Migration might not be stopped, and certainly not by decree. Mexicans do fully respect the right of the government and the people of the United States to decide within its territory what is best for its government's security.
But at the same time, we do consider in a respectful way that we may truly stop the migration better by building a kilometer of highway in Michoacan or Zacatecas than 10 kilometers of walls on the border.
President Bush didn't back away from the fence, but he did promise to push Congress to adopt a guest-worker program that would also offer some illegal immigrants the chance to become U.S. citizens.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Together we're working to ensure that we have a secure and modern border that speeds the legitimate flow of people and commerce and stops those who threaten our common safety and prosperity.
There are decent, hard-working, honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families. And so, Mr. President, my pledge to you and your government — but more importantly to the people of Mexico — is I'll work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
This is the first meeting between the two presidents since Calderon took office in December after a razor-thin election. Since then, he's moved aggressively against drug trafficking, dispatching thousands of army and police forces against drug cartel operations in western Mexico.
But today, Calderon said the U.S. has to do its part to reduce demand for drugs.
In order to be successful in our struggle, we need the collaboration and the active participation of our neighbor, knowing that, while there is no reduction in demand in your territory, it will be very difficult to reduce the supply in ours.
The two presidents will conclude their meetings tomorrow.