- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mexican Ambassador Carlos de Icaza yesterday said millions of Mexican nationals now illegally in the United States are hard-working residents who take jobs Americans refuse, but their rights are “completely unprotected” and the White House and Congress need to find a solution.”It is up to the American public to be concerned about the rights of these people as human beings,” Mr. de Icaza said during a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “They contribute to the U.S. economy, work hard on a daily basis, but live in the shadows completely unprotected,” he said. “We need to find a constructive way to regulate immigration control, a process that addresses the economic, security, political and social needs of both countries.”Mr. de Icaza said his government was “encouraged” by a temporary guest-worker program proposed in January by President Bush and “welcomed” the national debate on immigration reform the president had begun.”While I believe migration is a shared responsibility and Mexico wants to be a part of the solution, not just the problem, as an ambassador I am respectful of the fact that it is up to the American Congress and the president to decide how to best protect the rights of the immigrants already in the United States,” he said.Mr. Bush’s proposed guest-worker program, offered in January not as specific legislation but as a set of principles, would allow migrants to remain in the country if they have jobs and apply as guest workers. Under the proposal, the aliens could stay for a number of renewable three-year periods yet to be decided, after which they could seek permanent legal status.Since his Nov. 2 re-election, Mr. Bush has assured Mexico he will use his “political capital” to push hard to grant temporary guest-worker status to millions of illegal aliens in the United States, although passage of a guest-worker bill in the near future seems unlikely.The number of immigrants in the United States reached a record high this year of 34 million, including about 10 million illegal aliens, or nearly 30 percent of the immigrant population, according to a report by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies , which was based on U.S. Census Bureau data.The report said the country’s immigrant population had increased since 2000 by 13 percent, more than 4 million, including 2 million illegal aliens.Most of the illegal aliens in this country are Mexican nationals, who will return about $14 billion in remittances this year to their home country.Mr. de Icaza, a career diplomat, said the establishment of a “secure, dignified and humane” immigration policy was essential for both Mexico and the United States, and that his government was “willing to cooperate” in any U.S. proposal that addressed what he called the parallel concerns of security and immigration.”It is important we better manage the flow of migration between our two countries so that it is more secure and orderly,” he said. “It is the biggest problem our countries face, and there is no alternative but to address it. We are trading partners and have maintained a fruitful dialogue. It is a good idea for good neighbors to cooperate.”Mr. de Icaza said a guest-worker program, if passed by Congress, would allow Mexico and the United States to work together to better improve security through the joint training of border officials and shared background checks of those seeking to enter the United States under the program.He also said his country already has committed manpower and resources to fight organized crime along the U.S.-Mexico border, stop alien and drug smugglers, and prevent terrorists from crossing into the United States. He said Mexico would pursue those goals “with or without an agreement on immigration.”With regard to Mexican nationals now illegally in the United States, Mr. de Icaza said many used to return to Mexico periodically but now find themselves trapped because it is too difficult to return. Instead, he said, they are now bringing their families to the United States.One result, he said, is that many Mexican towns have found themselves with a shortage of workers, who left jobs in Mexico attracted by better pay in the United States.

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