Border politics

February 10, 2005

SINCE HIS first term, President Bush has promised to craft an immigration agreement with Mexico that would provide U.S. employers with a steady stream of Mexican workers willing to fill low-wage jobs. Mexican President Vicente Fox supports the idea because it would provide Mexico's economy with much-needed remittances sent home by compatriots working stateside.

Mr. Fox is still waiting for the agreement, and the delay has cost him politically. Having touted his good relationship with Mr. Bush, Mr. Fox now appears unable to deliver jobs to Mexicans eager to work in the United States without risk of arrest or deportation.

Mr. Fox unseated the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ruled Mexico for 70 years, but the party now appears poised to make a comeback in the 2006 presidential elections. The Mexican Congress, dominated by the PRI, has blocked Mr. Fox's initiatives. Many Mexicans now believe he was used by Mr. Bush to win Hispanic-American votes in the presidential elections and that no migration plan is in the offing.

Washington is to blame, at least in part, for Mr. Fox's diminished political standing. The White House's inaction thus far, combined with resistance in the U.S. Congress from members of Mr. Bush's own party, has hurt an important American ally and trading partner, and undermined U.S. efforts to bring order to a border run amok, a problem made more imperative by the 9/11 attacks.

That Mr. Bush raised the issue in his recent State of the Union speech is encouraging. Still, he should light a fire under Congress.

Mr. Fox's image was further weakened by a recent U.S. State Department announcement warning Americans of violent drug wars and kidnappings in Mexican border towns. (In the last six months, 27 Americans were kidnapped; two of them were killed, and 11 are still missing.) A diplomatic imbroglio ensued when the U.S. ambassador in Mexico wrote to Mexican authorities questioning the competency of Mexican police working the border and warning of the "chilling effect" the violence could have on cross-border tourism and commerce.

Mexican authorities considered these moves patronizing, and President Fox responded with a statement taking offense at "judgment from any foreign government."

Meanwhile, pressure continues to grow for him at home, where there are more people than there are jobs -- not a good formula for stanching the exodus of illegal border crossers from Mexico to the United States.

If Mr. Bush is serious about cross-border cooperation between the two countries, he should push aggressively for immigration legislation he can sign into law.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.