- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mexican President Vicente Fox is calling on Canada to accept more low-skilled Mexican workers in its temporary work force, making his push for guest workers a continentwide affair.

“We should move out from agriculture to other services and other kinds of jobs, and we are working on this with the Canadian government,” Mr. Fox said in yesterday’s edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper.

He is asking U.S. officials to legalize the estimated 6 million illegal-alien Mexicans in the United States and wants Congress to create a guest-worker program for low-skilled foreigners.

Immigration promises to be a dominant issue in the run-up to the meeting this week among Mr. Fox, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Bush. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the leaders will discuss guest-worker programs and cross-border security efforts.

“There are responsibilities on both sides, and we all need to work together to make sure those responsibilities are met,” Mr. McClellan said.

The Senate is debating immigration and appears to be headed toward approving some form of a guest-worker program. In December, the House passed an immigration-enforcement bill that does not include guest-worker provisions.

Mexican officials have been critical of the House bill, particularly an amendment that calls for building nearly 700 miles of fence along the border.

The Bush administration supported the House bill, but Mr. Bush told CNN Espanol yesterday that fencing off the border is “impractical.” He did say that the U.S. Border Patrol needs more tools.

He also said he has told Mr. Fox that Mexico must work to secure its own southern border, through which hundreds of thousands pass illegally on their way to the United States.

Mr. Bush rejected the Mexican government’s claim in U.S. newspaper advertisements to a role in the U.S. debate, saying that although “thoughtful suggestions” are welcome, Congress will write the bill.

The president is trying to keep a lid on simmering tensions over immigration, and has cautioned several times over the past week for a “civil” debate.

But some members of Congress say Mexican officials have crossed that line too often.

“Americans are tired of being told that they are bigots by the likes of President Fox and Foreign Minister [Luis Ernesto] Derbez,” Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, wrote in a letter yesterday to Mr. Bush.

“I respectfully request that you publicly make it clear to both men that their clumsy, over-the-top rhetoric about internal U.S. political matters pertaining to our border security is unwarranted and unacceptable.”

Neither a spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Washington nor a Canadian government spokesman could be reached for comment.

In his newspaper interview, Mr. Fox also disputed the size of the illegal Mexican population in the United States, saying it is between 3 million and 4 million, rather than 6.2 million as reported by the Pew Hispanic Center in March 2005.

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