- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

Mexican President Vicente Fox is asking President Bush: What have you done for me lately? At a recent dinner hosted by the Council of Americas in New York, Mr. Fox said "there can be no privileged U.S.-Mexico relationship without actual progress on substantial issues in our bilateral relationship." But Mr. Fox should be careful, lest he get that quid pro quo he is wishing for.
Specifically, Mr. Fox has immigration issues in his sights. Mr. Fox has been asking Mr. Bush to support measures to grant a blanket amnesty to the millions of Mexicans living illegally in the United States, more U.S. visas to Mexicans seeking residence in America and the reinstatement of the type of guest-worker program that was active four years ago. And Mr. Bush has obliged, to some degree, Mr. Fox's requests in an effort to court Hispanic voters. On March 12, a week before Mr. Bush's trip to a U.N. conference in Mexico, a bill backed strongly by the president passed in the House to allow about 200,000 Mexicans living illegally in the United States an amnesty. The Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.
The bill, unfortunately, sends all the wrong signals. Rewarding illegal aliens with an amnesty will simply encourage more immigrants to break U.S. laws, thereby contributing to general disorder and diminished security, not to mention a larger pool of undocumented workers that can be more easily exploited by employers. Presumably, Mr. Bush's support for the amnesty was motivated by visions of non-hanging chads. But just in case that wasn't tantalizing enough, Mr. Fox last week tried to sweeten the trade-off.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that, according to Mexican officials, Mr. Bush's as-of-yet unfruitful efforts to push forward Mr. Fox's coveted immigration measures are "likely to hurt Mr. Fox's efforts to push through an ambitious agenda that includes greater access for foreign investors to the nation's energy and telecommunications sectors." Mr. Bush should curtly respond that the White House doesn't expect Mexico to take any measures in these areas on its account. After all, Mexico should liberalize its economy because it will benefit itself in doing so not because it is doing the bidding of the gringos. Mr. Fox would hardly benefit politically from pushing forward foreign ownership if he were doing so to curry favor with America.
Mr. Fox maintains that he needs Mr. Bush to throw him some kind of concession ahead of Mexico's congressional elections next year. Although his own concessions may presently seem like a cagey negotiating tactic, Mr. Fox ought to remember, the Mexicans are watching, too.


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