- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

TOLEDO, Ohio — President Bush yesterday said he would ask Congress to legalize Mexican aliens if they would take jobs others pass up and called for the abolition of laws that bar American companies from employing border-jumpers.
"I mean, the truth of the matter is that if somebody is willing to do jobs others in America aren't willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to the country and we ought to make that a legal part of our economy," Mr. Bush said as he and Mexican President Vicente Fox prepared to depart the White House for Toledo.
"We ought not to penalize an employer who's trying to get a job done, who hires somebody who's willing to do that kind of work," Mr. Bush added.
The president said he will try to expedite congressional approval of guest-worker status for illegal Mexicans, although he stopped short of promising to honor Mr. Fox's request for an agreement by the end of the year.
"There's obviously a sense of urgency in the president's message," Mr. Bush said of the Mexican leader. "I hear that sense of urgency, and my administration is willing to work as hard as we possibly can to get something done in a constructive fashion."
But Mr. Bush was unable to explain how he can grant legal status to any of the estimated 3 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States without prejudicing would-be immigrants from Mexico and other nations who have been waiting for years to immigrate legally.
"I fully recognize there are a lot of people who have stood in line, who have said: 'I'll abide by the laws of the United States,'" Mr. Bush told reporters on the South Lawn. "We're trying to work through a formula that will not penalize the person who's chosen the legal route, and at the same time recognizes the contribution that the undocumented has made."
Both presidents painted illegal immigrants in heroic terms, with Mr. Bush even calling them "innocent, hard-working people." While he refrained from criticizing Mexicans for crossing the border illegally, he lambasted smugglers who accept money from the Mexicans to assist them in their illegal crossings.
Although Mr. Bush has repeatedly emphasized he opposes blanket amnesty for all 3 million illegal Mexicans, he has not called for the deportation of even a fraction of them.
"The focus is more on how to create a new program that works, less on any type of punitive actions such as that," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said aboard Air Force One in response to questions from The Washington Times.
Mr. Bush was vague about how many illegal Mexicans might be granted guest-worker status and how many guest workers might eventually be granted permanent residency. He has bristled at suggestions that he is trying to co-opt Hispanic voters for his re-election bid in 2004.
"One of the things I have told the president is I am willing to consider ways for a guest worker to earn a green-card status," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "I hope to come forward with a program that will pass the Congress, that deals with guest workers with some sense of normalization."
But he seemed to acknowledge he faces stiff congressional opposition from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"This is an incredibly complex issue," he said. "To make matters even more complicated, we've got to work with the Congress, and we've got to come up with a solution that Congress can accept."
Although unemployment in the United States is at its highest level in years, Mr. Bush indicated Americans should be willing to share the job market with illegal Mexican immigrants.
"This is an employment issue in the United States," he said. "We've got employers who can't find workers and, therefore, then employ undocumented workers.
"And under our law that's illegal," he added. "And it seems like to me we ought to have a direct and honest assessment of reality."
Mr. Bush spent considerable time assessing that reality with his Mexican counterpart before departing for Toledo.
"I explained this to President Fox, that there are many in our country who are undocumented and we want to make sure that their labor is legal. And so part of the issue is how do we match a willing employer with a willing employee, to recognize the value of the work, and to legalize that part of the process.
"And that's where we need to think creatively on a guest-worker program," he added.
During a speech to 10,000 enthusiastic supporters in Toledo, which has a sizable Mexican population, Mr. Fox said he must be willing to let his countrymen immigrate to the United States if they are to return some day to help build prosperity in Mexico.
"In Mexico, we do not ever forget our beloved countrymen," said Mr. Fox, directing his comments to Mexican-Americans in the audience at the University of Toledo. "Not only do we not forget them, but we also recognize with pride that we have learned so much from you from your courage, your determination, your perseverance and your valor.
"And I want to tell you not only that we love you and respect you, that we need you back in Mexico, that we will be working to welcome all of you back in Mexico to promote the growth about a great nation and to work together to construct a better future for our country," he added.
Meanwhile, first ladies Laura Bush and Martha Sahagun toured a Hispanic art exhibit at a museum in Chicago yesterday, according to Reuters. After the exhibit tour, Mrs. Sahagun spoke about immigration issues and pleaded with those pursuing wealth and progress not to leave the poor behind.
"Globalization must never forget it has a human face," she told guests at a luncheon at the Terra Museum of American Art, which is hosting a touring Smithsonian exhibit featuring the work of Hispanic artists from across the United States.

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