- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Mexican President Vicente Fox told hundreds of farm workers here yesterday that neither his country nor the United States can go it alone in trying to fix immigration problems.

“It’s clear the purpose is to reach an agreement that can give security, that can give legality, that can give flow to the migrant people,” Mr. Fox said in Spanish on his second day of a four-day visit to the Western U.S. “I think we are closer to the end of this route. This is a shared responsibility, the immigration reform.”

Mr. Fox spoke on the same day the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to limit debate on election-year immigration legislation. That cleared the way for final passage later this week of a bill that calls for tougher border security as well a right to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire pressed Mr. Fox to visit the eastern part of her state, where thousands of Hispanic workers — many of them illegal aliens — labor in agriculture and make up as much as 90 percent of the population in some communities. Some Washington farmers are worried that a border crackdown could create a shortage of workers.

In Yakima, Mr. Fox toured a 700-acre cherry, apple and pear orchard and an apple-packing warehouse owned by Rene and Carmen Garcia. Their operation, G&G; Orchards, is thought to be the only Hispanic-owned apple warehouse in Washington.

“So far, we’re looking for a bigger crop this year, and I’m getting nervous,” Mr. Garcia said. “We’re not seeing the people circulating around looking for jobs.”

Six busloads of farm workers, farm owners and others welcomed Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox flew to Washington to meet with the farmers and Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski after an appearance earlier in the day in Utah, where he told the Legislature that building a wall on the border is not the answer to illegal entry into the United States.

“One cannot underestimate the importance of this moment and how complex this issue is for our two nations,” Mr. Fox said at a special session of the Utah Legislature. “Since the beginning of my administration, the government of Mexico has promoted the establishment of a new system that regulates the movement of people across our border in a manner which is legal, safe and orderly.”

Mr. Fox, speaking in English, said that his nation must expand its economic growth so it is not necessary for people to seek work and benefits across the border, and that democracy cannot flourish unless there is economic freedom to support it.

“Until recently, Mexico was trapped in a vicious cycle of economic crisis, recurring crisis. But we have set out to change that,” he said. “Today, Mexico has the soundest, safest, most stable economy of our lifetime.”

Several dozen protesters gathered outside the state Capitol, waving American flags and carrying signs attacking proposals to offer illegal aliens amnesty. The Minuteman Project, which opposes illegal entry, organized the demonstration.

Mr. Fox is scheduled today to attend a breakfast with business leaders in Seattle, visit a community health center, and have lunch with other business groups. He then heads to California to address lawmakers and meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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