Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Immigration and Trade are Focus of Fox’s Visit to U.S.

(Source Article: Mexico's President Visits U.S. - CNN)

Today in Utah, his first stop on a three-state visit, Mexican President Vicente Fox urged that the U.S. and Mexico work to strengthen their economic, educational and cultural relationship, insisting that continued regional prosperity will result from such efforts.

Fox’s encouragement is not surprising, considering Mexico is Utah’s third largest trading partner—and one of the nation’s top trading partners overall. In 2005, the U.S. exported commodities to Mexico in the value of approximately US$ 120 billion dollars. Additionally, the U.S. imported over 170 billion dollars worth of commodities from Mexico, resulting in a substantial trade deficit (Source: TradeStats Express).

Fox is expected to focus on discussion of immigration as well given the growing concern amongst U.S. citizens. Utah’s Hispanic population—primarily Mexican—has tripled since 1990, and the reason why is a source of dispute.

Anti-immigrant groups within Utah say the state attracts illegal immigrants because of the nonchalance of the state’s citizens who don’t report such immigrants to the authorities. Critics of Fox say he’s trying to influence U.S. policy on illegal immigration by not visiting Washington on this trip and instead opting to meet with governors of Western states.

Fox’s visit to the states coincides with the U.S. Senate’s expected vote on immigration legislation that could result in a new guest-worker program and opportunity of citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. (see Immigration Legislation - CNN). His encouragement of the strengthening of the two countries’ relationship echoes his response to previous congressional plans to build a 700 mile fence along the border: “[barriers] do not offer an effective answer for a relationship of friends and partners,” he said. The late poet Robert Frost might agree.

Despite the obvious importance and sheer immensity of U.S.-Mexico relations, immigration remains a hot-blooded issue—especially in conservative red states such as Utah.

Is Fox right in suggesting, at least impliedly, that relations with Mexico can prosper and benefit from legislation granting citizenship status to many would-be illegal immigrants?

Is he further implying that current relations might deteriorate in the absence of such legislation?

While critics might say Fox is making this trip for political reasons (though for his party alone, since he cannot run for President again), those immigrants whose status is at stake have more on the line.

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