AUSTIN—Flanked by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Thursday said reviving an immigration agreement with Mexico will be among the top priorities for President Bush during his second term.
Derbez, responding to a question, said those “discussions have already begun,” indicating the topic of an immigration accord was broached during a brief early-morning phone conversation Wednesday between Mexican President Vicente Fox and Bush hours before the U.S. president acknowledged his victory against Sen. John Kerry.
Saying Fox had called Bush at 7 a.m. to congratulate him on his re-election, Derbez said in Spanish that the two leaders “talked about their mutual agenda and agreed to initiate high-priority talks, especially with respect to immigration.”
The U.S.-educated diplomat said both men agreed that “reforming a migration accord will receive high consideration” when the two leaders are scheduled to meet at a conference in Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 19 and 20.
Later, speaking in English to a reporter, Derbez noted that “we appear to be moving in the right direction, but in the end, (immigration) is a U.S. issue and (a Bush immigration plan) is one that will have to be worked out between the (U.S.) Congress and the White House.”
Hutchison, a Texas Republican, invited Derbez and U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans to give the inaugural talk at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Chair in Latin American Law at the University of Texas at Austin law school.
The academic chair’s goal, she said, will be to enhance academic collaboration and create a center to foster research on international relations, trade and investment in the Americas and Latin American law.
In introducing Derbez, Hutchison said “there is a sense of urgency to deal with the (immigration) issue, and I believe that with the president’s resounding victory, his next four years will give him the chance to do what he intended to do before 9-11.”
Bush and Fox were said to have been working on a guest worker program that would have allowed Mexican workers to legally reside and work in the United States for a specific period of time, between three to six years, before returning to Mexico.
But 9-11 and the resulting emphasis on homeland security shelved those plans.
“The devil is in the details,” Hutchison said. “But I do believe that (Bush) will have as his priority to . . . have a worker program that will permit a free flow (of workers) across the border, but one that will have to mesh workers’ needs with our homeland security needs, and that will take time.”
She noted that whatever program might be adopted by Congress may not resemble the specific plan Bush envisioned early in his first administration.
Hutchison, a 1967 UT law school graduate, said she is a proponent of closer ties between the United States and Latin America. She wanted to establish an academic chair at her alma mater “so that the law school (will) become one of the premiere centers for studying Latin American law.”
Such academic chairs at UT require funding of a minimum of $1 million.