- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

WACO, Texas — President Bush holds a summit today with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at Baylor University, and although the sensitive issue of immigration is not on the official agenda, the White House expects it to appear.

“That’s not part of the meeting,” said a senior administration official yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

“But you obviously have a number of meetings [and a lunch at Mr. Bush’s Crawford ranch] in which the leaders will be together. I’d imagine in the course of that time, topics of that kind will be raised by one leader or another,” the official said.

The one-day summit’s stated purpose is to reach deals to expand free trade and to improve coordination on post-September 11 security concerns, including border control, an issue on which Mr. Bush’s Republican allies in Congress think he has been too lax.

His “guest worker program,” which would grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants upon the promise that they eventually return home, has gotten nowhere on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Fox has further irritated many congressional Republicans by complaining about the nearly 1,000-member strong Minuteman Project — a volunteer organization that will help border patrol agents throughout April repel illegal aliens attempting to cross into Arizona.

The senior Bush administration official said the president also is wary of the Minutemen.

“In terms of the Minutemen, when [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice was in Mexico she underscored that the U.S. does not promote vigilantism in any fashion,” the official said. “If they try to take the law in their own hands, they would suffer the consequences. This is not something that we would support.”

Mr. Fox also has harshly criticized the planned construction of a “triple fence” along the border near San Diego, saying “we are convinced that walls don’t work.”

“They should be torn down,” he said. “No country that is proud of itself should build walls.”

Though Mr. Bush’s desire for looser immigration laws has earned the praise of Mr. Fox, they disagree on the wisdom of the wall.

“Obviously, President Fox has his views on the construction of a wall along part of the border near San Diego, which we and the Congress don’t necessarily share,” the senior administration official said.

A Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday shows that the population of illegal immigrants has grown 23 percent to 10.3 million since Mr. Bush took office. The vast majority of those illegal immigrants have come from Mexico, according to Pew.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and an opponent of illegal immigration, has given qualified support to the Minutemen Project and suggested that Mr. Fox “demonstrate perhaps a little less disdain for the rule of law north of the border.”

Mr. Kyl told the Mohave Daily News this week that Mr. Fox “presumes that illegal aliens have more of a right to break American law than American citizens have to peacefully assist authorities in enforcing it.”

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