Lawmakers skeptical of Fox’s remarks |

Lawmakers skeptical of Fox’s remarks

Mexican President Vicente Fox told Utah lawmakers on Wednesday that his country doesn’t condone illegal immigration.

"One cannot underestimate the importance of this moment and how complex this issue is for our two nations," Fox said, speaking in English to a special session of the Legislature. "Since the beginning of my administration, the government of Mexico has promoted the establishment of a new system that regulates the movement of people across our border in a manner which is legal, safe and orderly."

Republican state Sen. Allen Christensen, however, doesn’t believe Fox.

"I think they do encourage illegal immigration, if by nothing more than lack of any enforcement," Christensen said during a telephone interview Friday.

But the senator praised Fox for having a grasp of the need to develop Mexico economically.

"Once they develop Mexico adequately I believe that the immigration problem will be solved," said Christensen, who represents most of eastern Summit County in the Utah Senate. "[Fox] said they’re making huge strides."

Fox told state lawmakers the United States should not construct a wall to keep illegal immigrants out before the U.S. Senate passed legislation Thursday calling for more fences along the U.S.-Mexican border.

"I think that’s putting a Band-Aid on where surgery is needed," Christensen said. "Unless we take away the incentives for anybody to come, then no matter how high of a fence we build and how many people we put there, people will find a way."

Utah’s two U.S. senators split their votes on the immigration bill.

"Immigration reform has to start at the border," Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said in a press release.

Guest-worker provisions in the Senate bill that intend to provide a path for immigrants to obtain legal residency amount to "blanket amnesty," the senator said.

"I’ll be a member of the negotiating team that’s going to craft a compromise bill that can pass the Senate and House, and I’ll work to find a way to secure our borders in a way the American people can accept," said Hatch, estimating that 12 million people are living in the United States illegally.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, voted for the bill.

State Republican Rep. David Ure insists the American economy depends on immigrant labor.

"We have to protect our borders within America, but having said that, I believe if the United States government would get in place a work-visa program and make it efficient you would then be taking the pressure off the borders," Ure said during a telephone interview Friday.

The Mexican government, however, must do more to deter illegal immigration, he added.

"[Fox’s] words sounded good, but I wondered if he really believed them," Ure said about the Mexican president’s speech to lawmakers. "We are receiving a lot of criticism on the talk radio shows across the United States for having him here, I personally think it was a wise decision."

Meanwhile, political backbiting at this week’s special session prevented lawmakers from reducing state income tax, Christensen said.

"The egos got in the way," he said, adding, "the tax cut will wait for another day."

A majority of state senators now want to repeal the reduction of the sales tax on food that passed during this year’s general session because of reluctance in the state House of Representatives to cut income tax, Christensen said, adding, "there were just a lot of hard feelings between the House and the Senate on that one."

"For some of my constituents up in Coalville that complained so much, suddenly the Senate seems to have done a 180 and they’re all opposed (to the food-tax reduction)," the senator said. "I have opposed it from the first."

Ure countered that House members opposed a flat-tax proposal and "did not back off the income tax (cut) per se."

"It’s going to happen but not unless we change the flat tax," he said.

Ure conceded that House members indicated they would support the Senate’s reduction in income tax if senators reduced the sales tax on food.

"The House would have supported lowering the income tax, but the flat tax has some major problems," Ure said. "I think it’s fundamentally wrong."

The rate of sales tax collected on unprepared food by the state will drop from 4.75 to 2.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2007.

However, repealing the entire tax on food and slashing income tax by $70 million is not possible, Ure claimed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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