WASHINGTON -- In recent days, we have heard many voices in various parts of this great country expressing different views, concerns and hopes regarding the outcome of the immigration debate. Certainly, the future of millions of people, including many Mexicans, will depend on the results of that process.
Mexico is respectful of the ongoing debate on immigration reform in Congress and the right of all countries to take actions that are deemed appropriate for their security and national interests.
However, it is important to remember that immigration transcends borders and requires international cooperation. Today, the human dimension of our agenda is the centerpiece of Mexico-U.S. relations. Mexico has proposed to work with the United States under the principle of shared responsibility to establish legal, safe, orderly and humane migration between the two countries.
Mexico also believes that comprehensive immigration reform must address the situation of the Mexican undocumented workers and their families who are already in the United States. They are hardworking individuals who contribute to the economies of both countries.
Last year, $20 billion was remitted to Mexico. However, that figure accounts for only 10 percent of their net income. The remaining 90 percent was either spent or saved in the United States. They are not criminals and do not pose a threat to U.S. national security.
The migration issue between Mexico and the United States is only part of our strong bilateral relationship. The North American Free Trade Agreement has created one of the most powerful economic regions in the world, in which Mexico is the second-largest trading partner of the United States. Trade between our countries reached nearly $300 billion in 2005. That year, Mexico bought $120 billion from the United States - more than Japan, Britain and France combined.
Mexico and the United States share a commitment to democratic values and respect for human rights. We have built a solid partnership in the fight against terrorism and organized crime, and Mexico is committed to continue strengthening border security. Together with Canada, we are working to better address the global challenges of the 21st century. During the Cancun meeting in late March, the leaders of the three countries reiterated their vision and commitments to the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.
These significant accomplishments illustrate how Mexico and the United States have reached unprecedented levels of cooperation. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged this Feb. 16 when she testified before the House International Relations Committee, "This Mexican government has been more cooperative than any other Mexican government in trying to help in border enforcement."
This level of understanding should allow us to confront immigration as a shared responsibility.
In this regard, Mexico has reached a national consensus on its position on immigration policy, particularly on its responsibilities and contributions to the bilateral management of the issue.
However, my country needs to work harder to foster sufficient economic growth and social development to improve the standard of living and, in turn, encourage people to stay in Mexico. We need their contributions at home to build a stronger and more prosperous nation. For this reason, we do not promote emigration.
To that end, the government of Mexico has achieved stable economic growth in the past six years and has decreased poverty levels by 30 percent. In 2005 alone, 700,000 new jobs were created. To fight poverty, the government also has provided more housing, medical care and regional development in areas most needed. In March, the unemployment rate was just 3.4 percent. And during the first quarter of this year, our economy grew 5.2 percent, the highest growth seen during the first quarter since 2000.
Nevertheless, the reality is that the U.S. economy is still 15 times the size of Mexico's, providing a powerful magnet for immigrant workers. What is currently lacking is a proper legal framework to satisfy the needs of the trans-border labor market.
If Mexico and the United States are neighbors, friends and partners, why can't we establish a common approach to properly address the immigration issue?
We want to be and we can be part of the solution. It is time that we work together for the benefit and well-being of our people and for both our nations.
Carlos de Icaza is Mexico's ambassador to the United States.