International cooperation is key
May 24, 2006
Mexico’s President, Vicente Fox, is in Salt Lake City for a brief visit today to talk with Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and other leaders of the American West about several issues of mutual interest, including trade and immigration. His appearance could offer an important perspective on the current controversy about how to deal with the thousands of undocumented Mexican nationals currently living and working in the United States.
Throughout the current debate about immigration reform, there has been little reference to the effects of various policy proposals on Mexico. Rather, the discussions have focused on how the influx of Mexican laborers has impacted the U.S. — its economy, its schools, wages and health care systems. This week, though, Fox could help shed light on how his country could be helped or harmed by the changes being proposed in Congress.
So far, the Senate and House of Representatives have been divided on everything, from building a wall along the Mexican-U.S. border, to giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants already living in the states. The controversy crosses political lines and even after a year of negotiations, Congress has been unable to negotiate a compromise that would allow passage of a comprehensive immigration bill.
Fox’s visit is a reminder that two countries’ futures are at stake here. Yes, communities around the United States, including Park City, Kamas and Coalville, have been impacted by a growing number of immigrants, mostly from Mexico. But what about the communities in Michoacan and Chihuahua that have seen much of their eligible workforce leave to find jobs in the U.S.? How would they be affected by larger guest worker quotas or tighter border controls?
Today’s visit, and the meetings Fox has planned later in the week in the states of Washington and California, have the potential to influence the policymakers in Washington , D.C. Unfortunately, the media have been notified that Fox will not be taking questions. Citizens will have to count on their governor and other elected representatives to ask the tough questions.
Mexico’s economic turmoil currently is the subject of a contentious political campaign between the two candidates vying to replace Fox in a July 2 presidential election. With nothing to lose because he has already reached his term limit, it is disappointing that Fox is unwilling to engage in an open discussion about possible solutions to both countries’ immigration problem.
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One thing should be clear, though, as Mexico’s leader meets with many of his countrymen who have chosen to live in Utah — immigration will be an issue as long as there is such a great disparity in the two nations’ standards of living. Trade and cooperative economic initiatives will likely be more effective at slowing illegal border crossings than any immigration reform package passed by Congress.