Bush, Fox focus on Mexican immigration
Richard Tomkins
Bush, Fox focus on Mexican immigration
Mon Mar 8 02:36:19 2004

Bush, Fox focus on Mexican immigration

By Richard Tomkins
UPI White House Correspondent
Published 3/6/2004 3:05 PM

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Mexican immigration to the United States featured prominently in talks Saturday between President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox, but it remained unclear if the administration would drop plans to force frequent Mexican visitors to undergo fingerprinting and border-point photographs.

The rule, part of the $367 billion US-VISIT program to enhance border security, has offended the Mexicans, who point out that frequent Canadian visitors are exempted.

"The president and I just discussed the issue of the border crossing cards and ... the professional visas," Bush said at a news conference at his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas. "We're making progress."

U.S.-Mexican relations soured in 2002 when administration intentions to deal with contentious border issues were elbowed aside in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington the launch and prosecution of the war on terrorism. The low point came the following year when Mexico opposed U.S. military action against Iraq.

The US-VISIT program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security at places of entry into the United States, was instituted to better monitor track visitors to the country, some of whom could be potential terrorists.

In January Bush proposed a guest-worker immigration reform proposal to tackle the problem of illegal immigrants to the country. Most of the 8 million plus illegal immigrants are believed from Mexico.

Under the proposal, foreign workers could apply for temporary 3-year worker visas for jobs that cannot be filled by U.S. citizens. Those accepted would be granted full legal labor rights, be allowed to travel to and from their home countries, and would be able to renew the visa at least once. Eventually, however, they would be expected to return home.

Those now illegally in the United States and working would be eligible.

Bush's proposal immediately ran into a firestorm of criticism. Republicans on Capitol Hill and advocates of restrictive immigration branded it as a form of amnesty for illegal aliens. Democrats and others pushing a blanket amnesty for illegal workers branded it insufficient and an election ploy to snag Hispanic votes.

According to the 2000 Census, people of Hispanic origin constitute the single-largest minority group in the nation.

"I put forth what I think was a very reasonable proposal and a humane proposal that is not amnesty but in fact recognizes that there are good, honorable, hard-working people here doing jobs here Americans won't do," Bush said Saturday.

"I certainly hope the Congress takes this issue up, but there is no telling what's going to happen in an election year."

The United States has pressed Mexico to do more to police its side of the 2,000-mile border to curb illegal crossings by Mexicans who cannot find work at home. Fox has sought a quid pro quo for doing so.

Fox and his wife arrived at the president's ranch late Friday afternoon and were leaving mid-Saturday.

Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, had earlier indicated the administration may be willing to alter the finger-printing and photograph rule for frequent Mexican visitors, perhaps even scrapping them for those who stay no more than three days and go no farther than 25 miles from the border.

Bush Saturday also rejected criticism over his use of images from the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in television campaign ads, which began appearing in some 16 states last Thursday.

Some family survivors of victims of the attack on the World Trade Center slammed Bush for using an image of the rubble at the Trade Center and a scene of firemen in the rubble, saying it was improper and capitalizing on tragedy for political gain.

Among those quoted was an official of a firefighters' union that had endorsed the presidential attempt by Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The Democratic National Committee put out a number of the condemning statements in a news release early Thursday morning.

Bush Saturday, following up on earlier administration statements that the attacks were a shared national experience, indicated he saw nothing improper in using the briefly flashed images in his 30-second commercials that tout his leadership in confronting the nation's challenges.

"I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency," he said. "I will continue to mourn the loss of life on that day, but I will never forget the lesson that terrorists declared war on us that day, and I will continue to pursue the war."

Discussion of the attacks and the ongoing war against terror, he said, were suitable subjects for discussion and "I look forward to discussing that with the American people. And I look forward to the debate on who best to lead this country in the war on terror."

Since the initial Democratic broadside against the advertisements, number of other of people who lost loved ones in the attacks have spoken out in favor of the use of the images.

Bush also used his appearance before reporters with Fox to plug for Congress making permanent his tax cuts, which he said was spurring economic recovery from recession. Failure to make permanent provisions such as marriage penalty relief, increased child tax credits and expansion of the 10 percent tax bracket would be tantamount to raising taxes, he said.

Bush was traveling to Dallas and Houston Monday before returning to Washington. On Thursday and part of Friday he was in California, trumpeting his agenda and raising campaign funds.

Copyright 2001-2004 United Press International

Bush, Fox reaffirm political, personal relations at meeting

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