President Bush, working to rebuild strained U.S.-Mexico relations, promised Tuesday he would do his best to get a deeply divided U.S. Congress to change American immigration policies that are hated south of the border.
“My pledge to you and your government, but more important to the people of Mexico, is I’ll work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Bush said during a sun-splashed arrival ceremony that opened two days of meetings with Mexican President Felipe Calderón in this Yucatan Peninsula tourist haven.
Relations between the two border countries have only grown worse since Bush signed a law calling for construction of more than 700 miles of new fencing along the long border the two countries share.
Calderón has lambasted the fence—a mix of physical and high-tech barriers. He likens it to the Berlin Wall, and argues that both countries need to improve Mexico’s economy to lessen the desire to seek work in the United States.
Before their talks, Calderón had a tough message for Bush: The United States must do more to solve thorny issues of drug-trafficking and immigration.
He was gentler at Bush’s side, but with the same message.
“We fully respect the right that the government and the people of the United States has to decide within its territory what will be best for their concerns and security,” he said as he welcomed Bush. “But at the same time we do consider in a respectful way that” migration can’t be stopped with a fence.
At the same time, Calderón said much responsibility lies with his government.
“Mexicans lose in each migrant the best of our people—young people, working people . . . strong people,” he said. “We want to generate jobs for Mexicans here in Mexico. Because that is the only way to truly solve the migratory issue.”