- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

MONTERREY, Mexico President Bush yesterday said Americans are duty-bound to "share our wealth" with poor nations and promised a 50 percent increase in foreign aid, but only to states that reform their governments, economies and human rights practices.
"We must tie greater aid to political and legal and economic reforms," Mr. Bush told a U.N. conference on global development. "Pouring money into a failed status quo does little to help the poor, and can actually delay the progress of reform."
Mr. Bush said he would increase from $10 billion to $15 billion U.S. aid to poor nations within three years, and that fewer nations should be asked to pay it back.
"We should give more of our aid in the form of grants, rather than loans that can never be repaid," he said. "We should invest in better health and build on our efforts to fight AIDS, which threatens to undermine whole societies."
In addition to the moral, economic and strategic imperatives of increasing foreign aid, Mr. Bush said, it could also help in the war against terrorism.
"We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize and try to turn to their advantage," said the president, whose remarks were greeted by polite applause.
Mr. Bush, who earlier this month imposed tariffs on steel imports to the United States, yesterday told poor countries to jettison their own tariffs.
"We must bring down the high trade barriers between developing nations, themselves," he said.
After his speech, Mr. Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox, who wants the United States to expand its guest-worker program for Mexicans and grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens. Mr. Bush agrees with the proposal, but acknowledges the American public would not support granting blanket amnesty to the several million Mexicans who are living in the United States illegally.
A senior administration official said a bill before the U.S. Senate granting amnesty to 200,000 of those Mexicans is part of an "incremental" approach to the immigration issue. The official was asked by The Washington Times if that means the president favors an even-greater relaxation of immigration rules that stops short of blanket amnesty.
"The president often talks about linking willing workers with willing employers," the official said. "That's a subject that's been on the table as well."
The source added that "anything involving agricultural workers" would be another incremental step. The official did not elaborate on plans to expand migrant-worker programs.
During a joint news conference last night with Mr. Fox, Mr. Bush made clear that he considers the bill before the Senate, known as 245(I), to be merely a first step in a broader effort to give special treatment to Mexican illegals.
"Beyond 245-I, which is the family reunification, is first of all understanding the unique nature of the Mexican in our country," he said. "The Mexican national is different by virtue of the fact of proximity to the United States."
"Migrants make a valuable contribution to America," said Mr. Bush, who reached an agreement with Mexico yesterday to tighten security along the world's busiest border.
It calls for the two countries to exchange more customs information and set up systems to keep would-be terrorists and criminals from crossing the border.
Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, Mr. Fox had called for looser immigration laws by the end of last year. This was viewed as politically advantageous to Mr. Bush, who has long courted Hispanic voters.
But after the attacks, the American public called for stricter, not looser, control of borders. Recognizing the altered political landscape, Mr. Fox has instead called for expansion of guest-worker programs and amnesty for a smaller group of illegals.
This type of policy was tried in the 1950s and 1960s and "touched off massive permanent illegal immigration to the United States," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
"The alternative that Fox is offering relies on the revival of a failed guest-worker program that has served the interests of neither the United States nor Mexico," Mr. Stein said. "As enticing as the words 'temporary' and 'guest worker' might sound, we know from experience in this country and elsewhere around the world that there is nothing temporary about these schemes."
Also during the news conference, Mr. Bush confirmed that Vice President Richard B. Cheney spent much of his recent trip to the Mideast reminding Arab nations of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's intransigence.
"What we're telling our friends is that Saddam Hussein is a man who is willing to gas his own people, willing to use weapons of mass destruction against Iraq citizens," the president said.
"We have no imminent plans to use military operations," Mr. Bush said. "We'll be deliberate. We'll consult with our friends and allies. But we'll deal with Saddam Hussein."
Mr. Bush warned that leaving Saddam to his own devices could have disastrous consequences.
"A nightmare scenario, of course, would be if a terrorist organization, such as al Qaeda, were to link up with a barbaric regime such as Iraq, and thereby, in essence, possess weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We cannot allow that to happen."
He added: "Yes, we'd like to see a regime change in Iraq."
The U.N. conference was also attended by Cuban President Fidel Castro, who made a brief appearance, delivered a blistering attack against capitalism, and departed on Thursday. Cuban officials suggested he was pressured to leave by Mexico, a charge that was shrugged off by Mr. Fox and Mr. Bush.
"I know of no pressure placed on anybody," Mr. Bush said. "I mean, Fidel Castro can do what he wants to do.
"And what I'm uncomfortable about is the way he treats his people. There's only one country that's not a democracy in our hemisphere and that's Cuba."


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