Thursday, February 02, 2006

Leaders criticize border wall plans

Mexican leaders say a U.S. proposal to build more walls along Mexico's border will result in more immigrant deaths.
Bloomberg News
Mexico is fighting back against a U.S. proposal to construct 700 miles of wall along the southern border, saying it will increase the number of deaths to Mexicans trying to cross illegally.
President Vicente Fox and the nation's Congress are unleashing a lobbying blitz to persuade the U.S. Senate to reject the bill passed last month by the House. They're urging lawmakers to adopt instead a proposal by Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy that includes a temporary work program for Mexican immigrants. About 500 Mexicans died last year trying to cross illegally into the United States.
''The immigration won't stop,'' said Heliodoro Diaz, speaker of Mexico's lower house of Congress. ``Far from it. The only thing a wall will do is increase the number of deaths as people head to more dangerous areas to cross.''
Since a U.S. crackdown on the border began 10 years ago with more agents and walls, the number of immigrants crossing Mexico's northern border has jumped to 400,000 a year from 300,000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. Legislators such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, are pushing for tougher anti-immigration laws as the Mexican population in the U.S. grows.
Fox hired Allyn & Co., a unit of Fleishmann-Hillard, to convince Americans of the need for migrant workers. Diaz will invite a group of U.S. senators and representatives to Mexico City as early as February to discuss the topic.
''We have to build a common future,'' Fox said in a Nov. 29 press conference. ``Together, we have to create the basis for prosperity, and we have to achieve that through agreements.''
Mexico's push to influence the immigration debate in the United States is winning support across Latin America.
Seven Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and Colombia joined Mexico in calling for a U.S. guest-worker program. The group, following a Jan. 9 meeting convened by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, also criticized measures that toughen border vigilance without considering an ``integral solution.''
The House bill focuses on ''criminalizing'' immigration instead of providing for a legal way to fill farm, construction and service jobs with migrants, Diaz said. The legislation also provides for adding 10,000 border agents and inspectors and boosts fines for businesses hiring illegal immigrants.
After starting his six-year term in December 2000, Fox made reaching an immigration accord with the United States his foreign policy priority. Fox bet that a surging U.S. economy gave Mexico an opportunity to negotiate a temporary work program and amnesty for undocumented workers already living in the United States.

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