- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox, faced with stiff U.S. determination to enforce existing immigration laws, yesterday soft-pedaled his push for a more open border and stressed the need to create jobs in Mexico through economic development.
"How can we narrow the gap in income on both sides of the border?" Mr. Fox asked on his first visit to Washington since the July 2 election in which he handed the Institutional Revolutionary Party its first defeat in 71 years.
"How can we put together a fund for development? How can we build up opportunities in Mexico so our 18-year-old kids don't have to move to the United States? How can we develop these opportunities?
"All of this was treated and discussed" in his talks with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Fox said following meetings at the White House and the vice-presidential residence.
Mr. Fox had called in recent days for the United States to admit more legal Mexican workers to take up thousands of available jobs.
He raised eyebrows here and in Canada, which he visited Wednesday, by proposing to link the three countries in a European Union-style relationship with open borders and possibly a common currency.
But with some 200,000 illegal Mexicans crossing the border each year and another 200,000 immigrating legally, U.S. politicians have been talking tough about protecting U.S. borders.
"We have borders, and we have laws that apply to them and we have to apply them," Mr. Clinton said yesterday in the Rose Garden before his talks with Mr. Fox.
Both major U.S. presidential candidates have also reacted skeptically to the open-borders idea.
"I believe we ought to enforce our borders," said Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who meets with Mr. Fox today in Dallas.
Mr. Gore's national security adviser Leon Fuerth said the plan was "very problematic" for the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien dismissed the open borders idea Wednesday, saying, "I don't think we can adopt the European model in the years to come."
Mr. Clinton did call for closer relations, telling Mr. Fox that "over the long run, our two countries will become more interdependent," and encouraging Central and South America to join in.
"It will be the way of the world," he said. "I regret I won't be around for it."
Mr. Fox, whose proposal for greater access to the U.S. labor market has proven popular with Mexican voters, did not raise the idea when he spoke to reporters after his White house meeting.
Since he does not take office until Dec. 1, Mr. Fox said, his talks with Mr. Clinton were not negotiations but only "a friendly conversation."
"We talked about economic development both economies are growing strong and fast," Mr. Fox said. "This is good for Mexico and creates jobs."
He said his objective is to create 1.35 million new jobs, relying in part on small businesses and "micro-credits" of the sort developed by Bangladesh's Grameen Bank.
"As long as we work on development … we will not have migration" problems, he said.
In a later speech at the National Press Club, Mr. Fox said Mexico had a responsibility to improve its living standards, thereby combating the flow of illegal migrants to the United States.
Mr. Fox also said he will end Mexico's hostile relationship with private international organizations that investigate abuses of human rights and other sensitive issues.
"Non-government organizations inside and outside Mexico will find an open door we will not delay visas for NGOs dealing with human rights, ecology and environment or weaker groups related to poverty," he said.
Although Mr. Fox represents a conservative, pro-business party, he said that he would continue Mexico's friendly relationship with Fidel Castro's Cuba. But he said respect for human rights and democracy will be promoted by his government.
Peter Hakim, head of the Inter-American Dialogue, said Mr. Fox's calls for protecting Mexican workers illegal as well as legal were intended to satisfy voters at home.
But Mr. Fox is the first Mexican leader to take responsibility for migration, he said. Previous leaders insisted all citizens have a right to travel freely and blamed the illegal flow on disparities of income between Mexico and the United States.
"The labor market is wide open go into any restaurant" and you find Latin-American workers, said Mr. Hakim.
"The question is, can you regularize it and treat Mexicans with greater respect?"
The Mexican press and public has been inflamed by reports of hundreds of Mexicans dying while crossing the border illegally each year. Mr. Hakim said that a way should be found to allow temporary workers to come for a year or two but not to remain in the United States.

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