- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, meeting on the eve of Mexican President Vicente Fox's state visit to Washington, said yesterday that a solution to the divisive issue of illegal migration was a long way off.
"It is a very difficult, a tough issue and we've got to do it right, not do it fast," Mr. Powell said outside the State Department after a private meeting yesterday with his Mexican counterpart.
"We want to be right. We are not in a hurry. We've made a great deal of progress with respect to principles. We are now getting ready to move from principles into specifics and programs," Mr. Powell added.
Mr. Castaneda has traveled to Washington along with several other members of the Mexican Cabinet who will take part in a joint meeting today with the two presidents and senior Cabinet members from both nations.
Appearing with Mr. Powell yesterday, he said it could take four or five years to resolve the status of some 7 million Mexicans living in the United States and to create conditions that will dissuade millions more from crossing the border illegally.
"This is a politically touchy issue. … We have to do it slowly," Mr. Castaneda said.
He said four years during the Bush administration in the United States and maybe the full six years of the Fox administration "is not too long a time to resolve a 100-year-old issue."
Mr. Fox had come into office in Mexico hoping his close relationship with Mr. Bush would allow for much more dramatic progress on improving conditions for Mexican citizens in the United States.
However the Bush administration said Friday there will be no quick action on proposals for an amnesty for the estimated 3 million Mexicans working illegally for U.S. employers or to admit 250,000 guest workers to serve in short-term jobs.
"Immigration reform is a very complex subject," Mr. Bush said in a statement yesterday. "I have explained to the president [of Mexico] that there's no appetite for a blanket amnesty in Congress."
"This is going to take a while to bring all the different interests to the table," he added.
Mr. Bush said that Mexicans who come to the United States must be treated with respect, that U.S. borders must be safer and that a guest worker program to benefit both countries must be examined.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox, already acquainted when Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, created tremendous enthusiasm at their first meeting after both men took office earlier this year. They pledged to overcome decades of mutual hostility over illegal Mexican immigration into the United States. But the idea of an amnesty ran into stiff resistance from members of Congress.
"There is some disappointment they are not further along," said Peter Hakim, head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank.
"There was apparently broad agreement on some key principles. Mexico has to do more to work with the United States to avoid illegal migration. That does not mean it has to put more guards on the border," Mr. Hakim said.
While the immigration issue has captured most of the media attention leading up to the first state visit of Mr. Bush's presidency, a While House official stressed yesterday that the agenda for Mr. Fox's three-day stay included many other matters.
Issues to be covered by working groups at today's joint Cabinet session include migration, law enforcement and counternarcotics, border affairs, trade and economics, energy, global and social issues, and foreign policy, the official said at a briefing for reporters.
The purpose of the visit is to "call attention to the importance of Mexico and the Western Hemisphere in President Bush's agenda," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"President Bush has made this point over and over: The neighborhood is important; good bilateral relations begin with neighbors and the neighborhood."
Joseph Curl contributed to this report.


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