- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mexican President Vicente Fox began to wrap up a U.S. visit yesterday that critics said was an attempt to influence congressional debate on immigration reform and others praised as recognition of his country’s responsibility in a binational problem.

Mr. Fox’s agenda in a city heavily influenced by Mexican culture included meetings with two fellow proponents of immigration reform, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Both have been high-profile supporters of marches that brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the streets.

Cardinal Mahony met privately with Mr. Fox for 15 minutes at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel and later said he was impressed with the emphasis the Mexican president put on border security.

“He also wants to strengthen the border,” the cardinal told reporters in Spanish. “He, too, is worried about the drugs and criminals that are there.”

About 50 people protested noisily when Mr. Fox arrived at the Biltmore.

“We want him to create jobs in Mexico, not come here looking for jobs for Mexicans here,” said retiree Miguel Salazar, 78, a U.S. citizen originally from Mexico City.

On the four-day trip through Utah, Washington and California, Mr. Fox repeatedly said that Mexico must regulate the migration of its citizens to the U.S. and must bolster its economy so would-be migrants no longer see leaving as an economic necessity.

“It’s good he is here communicating that Mexico has a stake in legalizing the flow of immigrants,” said reform proponent Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “That does help his cause.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Fox told business leaders in Sacramento that an increasingly advanced Mexico offers investment opportunities for U.S. companies.

Though Mr. Fox has touched on such issues as trade barriers and economic development, critics argue his goal is to meddle in U.S. immigration policy at a pivotal moment.

His visit coincided with the Senate’s passage Thursday of sweeping reform legislation that would tighten border security and create a path to citizenship for 10 million illegal aliens living in the United States.

“He’s a foreign government official lobbying in the United States. It’s outrageous,” said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter immigration controls.

Mr. Fox praised the Senate in a Thursday address to a joint session of the California Legislature. He was careful not to criticize parts of the bill he had previously protested, such as the building of a 370-mile stretch of fence along key areas of the U.S.-Mexico border.

He also met privately with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is trying to regain the trust of Hispanic voters in time for the fall election.

While on U.S. soil, Mr. Fox also steered clear of criticizing President Bush’s plan to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to the border.


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