- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

MONTERREY, Mexico President Bush yesterday requested new funding to make it easier for immigrants and day workers to cross Mexico's 1,951-mile border into the United States, while insisting that border modernization will hamper the drug trade and prevent entry of violent criminals.
Mr. Bush, who wants to grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from Mexico, said the security improvements should not interfere with commerce, but assist it.
"We must work to make sure our border is modernized so that the commerce that takes place can move more freely, can be expedited so as it makes it easier for people to have jobs and find work," Mr. Bush said near a border crossing in El Paso, Texas, en route to a four-day tour of Latin American countries.
The president said he has sent Congress an emergency request for $27 billion, $5 billion of which would be used to protect Americans by strengthening security at airports and along borders.
"[W]e want to use our technology to make sure that we weed out those who we don't want in our country the terrorists, the coyotes, the smugglers, those who prey on innocent life," he said.
More than half of the $27 billion requested would go toward the war in Afghanistan and other military operations, while New York would receive $5.5 billion to assist its recovery from the September 11 attacks. The rest is earmarked to help other countries fight terrorism and to aid workers displaced by the economic slowdown.
Upon arrival in Monterrey for a U.N. conference on financing for development, the president held a trilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Mexican President Vicente Fox, whom he had hoped to greet with a new amnesty measure for illegal immigrants.
Senate Democrats yesterday scuttled that plan by postponing action on competing border-security bills, one of which allows immigrants with outdated visas to remain here while their residency applications are being processed.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday that he will not raise the issue until after the Easter recess, which ends April 8.
At a busy border crossing earlier in the day, Mr. Bush watched a demonstration of a hand-held device that measures the density of vehicles and detects hidden compartments. Some of the emergency funds would be used to purchase X-ray devices for similar inspections of the 4.3 million trucks that cross the border annually.
Wearing a blue U.S. Customs Service cap, the president then watched a truck drive through a CT scan device three stories tall. He also inspected a tour bus seized by Customs agents because it contained 1,500 pounds of cocaine in hidden compartments.
In May, Mr. Bush ignited a political firestorm when he announced plans to open the border by the end of 2002. His opponents charged that Mexican trucks are unsafe for American highways, and have accused the president of using the amnesty issue to woo the growing Hispanic voting bloc.
Both the House and the Senate passed legislation to block the move in July, and Mr. Bush threatened to veto the bill, which essentially died in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
The president began his three-nation tour by vowing that "two-bit terrorists" who killed nine persons in Peru on the eve of his trip will not stop him tomorrow from becoming the first U.S. president to visit the country.
"Two-bit terrorists aren't going to prevent me from doing what we need to do, and that is to promote our friendship in the hemisphere," Mr. Bush said just before he left Washington.
The president said "we might have an idea" who detonated the car bomb in Lima, the Peruvian capital, adding cryptically: "They've been around before." Although he did not identify the suspected terrorists, Mr. Bush nodded yes when a reporter asked if the communist guerrillas known as Shining Path are making a comeback in Peru.
The president expressed confidence in Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo's security arrangements.
Before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, Mr. Bush met with relatives of two Americans killed in a church bombing last weekend in Islamabad, Pakistan. The relatives included Milton Green, who was injured in the blast that killed his wife, U.S. Embassy employee Barbara Green, and their 17-year-old daughter, Kristen Wormsley.
The 10-minute meeting was also attended by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and first lady Laura Bush. The bodies of the mother and daughter were due to arrive at the base after the president's departure.
Mr. Bush first flew into El Paso to tour the border crossing with Mexico, and then continued on to Monterrey, Mexico's third-largest city. Along the way, he telephoned Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, to discuss a recent terrorist attack there.
Throughout the day, the president sounded a defiant note against terrorism, signaling he would not be cowed by attacks taking place all over the world.
"Today, we had a terrible suicide bombing in Israel, and innocent lives were lost," Mr. Bush told a crowd in El Paso. "And there was one in Peru yesterday, where people lost their life.
"And this morning, Laura and I met Milton Green and his son, who lost a wife and a mother when they were going to church, when they were praying to the Almighty God, and a suicide bomber came in Pakistan and took their lives.
"This is a dangerous world," Mr. Bush said. "Too many people are losing their lives to murderers."
He added: "We cannot let the terrorists take over freedom-loving societies. And we will not."
Mr. Bush was scheduled to travel to Peru tomorrow and to El Salvador on Sunday before returning to Washington Sunday evening.

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