Skip to comments.Bush, Fox hold good cards as meeting nears
Posted on 03/17/2002 4:35:17 AM PST by AzJohn
President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox each heads to a summit in Monterrey, Mexico, this week with strong bargaining chips to take to the negotiating table.
For Bush, it's last week's U.S. House approval of a measure to allow certain illegal immigrants to stay in the United States while applying for legal residency.
For Fox, it's the March 9 capture of Benjamin Arellano Felix, a man on the FBI's Most Wanted List who is suspected of being a major drug kingpin.
But how far each president will be able to push his agenda at the U.N. Financing for Development conference remains an open question. Bush wants a more tightly controlled border and help with the drug war; Fox wants amnesty for U.S.-based undocumented immigrants and an expanded guest-worker program.
"Times have gotten complicated, but there is still the will to keep talking," said Gustavo Mohar, Mexico's chief negotiator for international migration issues. "We're in a very preliminary process. Things are still simmering."
In February, Fox told The Arizona Republic that he and Bush wanted to have something specific to announce in Monterrey, where 54 heads of state, along with Cabinet members and ministers, will come together with anti-globalization activists and business leaders, and members of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, to discuss how rich nations can help the development of poor ones.
"That March meeting should give us a push ahead on the topics," Fox said. "We want to reach the first decisions on migration by then. Not the whole issue, but parts if it."
Just days before the attacks, Bush called ties with Mexico the most important U.S. foreign policy relationship, and it looked as if both countries were on their way to a migration accord and perhaps a guest-worker plan. But the aftermath of Sept. 11 brought calls in the United States for tighter immigration controls and a more wary eye toward foreigners.
Fox got discouraging news on immigration talks after Foreign Affairs Secretary Jorge Castañeda's Jan. 10 trip to Washington. Castañeda told Fox that U.S. officials were so concerned with homeland security that the impetus for an agreement had stalled.
Fox, who achieved the presidency on promises to improve the lot of his countrymen living illegally in the United States, was so worried that he called Bush. Sources familiar with the talks say that conversation, in which Bush assured his friend that the talks remained a top priority for his administration, restored the momentum that vanished after the terrorist attacks.
But the meetings in Monterrey still may be too soon for tangible deeds.
"Is the president going to float the issue of guest workers in any form? Is he going to pay even rhetorical homage to the idea?" Krikorian asked. "If he doesn't mention it, it indicates that the White House really has given up on any larger deal with Mexico. If he does say something even non-committal about it, it would be an indication that he is still searching for some kind of immigration bargain with Mexico."
Reflecting the new reality of relations between the two nations, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge visited Mexico City early this month to meet with Fox and clear the way for a border management plan, hinting that this would be the major achievement to announce in Monterrey and that an immigration deal should come, separately, out of the working group that Bush and Fox designated in February 2001.
As if to underscore that, Secretary of State Colin Powell, a member of that group, said recently that he expects talks between the two countries to continue long after Bush and Fox meet in Monterrey.
Now, Bush has the House vote on the 245(i) extension, which would allow thousands of illegal immigrants to pay a fine and get more time to complete legalization paperwork while staying in the United States, rather than leaving the country and then waiting up to 10 years to be allowed back in. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure, and its passage is not ensured.
Bush needs the bill to become law to fulfill a promise he made to Fox last year. The Senate could consider the measure this week, and the Bush administration is lobbying hard for passage before the president goes to Monterrey.
But critics say the bill by itself won't impress Mexico.
"That's a very nice and positive gesture, but given the broader reforms that are needed, it's really only a drop in the bucket," said Cecilia Muñoz, president of the National Council of La Raza. "What the U.S. and Mexico need out of this process is broad-based immigration reform."
And Fox still wants the big prize: legalization for 3 million to 4 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
He will go to Monterrey with powerful new proof of his willingness to work with the United States to stop illegal drug traffic. On March 9, Mexican soldiers and law enforcers captured Arellano Felix outside a home on a quiet street in Puebla, about 60 miles southeast of Mexico City.
Along with his brother Ramón, Arellano Felix is accused of heading the feared Tijuana Cartel, which drug agents blame for exporting tons of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States over the past 15 years. The brothers also are accused of killing dozens of people.
During the arrest, officials found proof that Ramón, suspected of being an enforcer for the cartel, was killed in a police shootout in the port city of Mazatlan on Feb. 10, Mexican Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said. Questions surrounded the identity of the body because the dead man carried fake police identification and his body was cremated before positive identification became public. Last week, the Attorney General's Office released DNA test results confirming that the dead man was Ramón Arellano Felix.
"Without a doubt, this demonstrates that we have been working with all seriousness to eradicate drug traffic (and) drug production in Mexico," Fox said. "This is a great triumph of justice and is a great triumph, in this case, of the Mexican army and the Attorney General's Office."
Mexican administration officials hope the arrest will lead to the end of certification, the mechanism by which the U.S. government "grades" other nations' efforts in aiding drug interdiction. The Bush administration suspended Mexico's certification last year, a well-received move in Mexico. Now, officials hope the arrest of Arellano Felix will mean the end of Mexico's certification for good.
"What has been established is a framework of cooperation, and this reinforces the position of the Mexican government that international cooperation is the best route to combat narcotics trafficking," said Gloria Abella, a spokeswoman for Castañeda's office. "We are hoping that that process of certification remains under indefinite suspension."
Some think the arrest carries even more weight than that.
Frank Sharry, director of the pro-immigration National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C.,said Fox's government has gone out of its way to fulfill U.S. demands, especially in criminal justice.
In 2001, Mexican officials captured and extradited 19 people sought outside Mexico. Among their highest-profile arrests were drug-smuggling suspects Mario Villanueva and Miguel Angel Caro Quintero.
Sharry said Mexico now has a right to expect more from the United States than vague pronouncements on immigration.
"The fact is the U.S. has gotten unprecedented cooperation from the Fox administration on security, smuggling and drug (interdiction)," Sharry said.
"If Bush lets Fox leave Monterrey empty-handed in respect to the migration agenda, it's going to be a huge blow. . . . If Bush is guessing that a little nugget called 245(i) will make Fox smile, he's in for a rude surprise."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gannett News Service reporter Sergio Bustos contributed to this article.
Also, it is strange how much credit the Mexican government expects for enforcing laws against drug smuggling. Shouldn't they want to do this anyway, both to protect their own citizens and to prevent the drug cartels from completely taking over?
We need an American for a President. This crap is getting old, with three presidents in a row who have been willing to relegate the US to the status of slave to the Third World. W is a fraud, just like Clinton and just like Wobbly before him.
I would feel different if the culprits were Jones or Smith, for it would be the responsibility of the US to take care of their citizens and suffer the expense of prosecuting them. However, when they are Mexican, why should the US have to spend to take care of Mexico's problem? This is not being a good neighbor.
I don't mind helping their law enforcement agencies, provided we can do so in a way that doesn't tip off the drug smugglers. But it is bizarre that they expect such actions to be matched by huge U.S. concessions on immigration policy.
But critics say the bill by itself won't impress Mexico.
"That's a very nice and positive gesture, but given the broader reforms that are needed, it's really only a drop in the bucket"...
So let me get this straight. The Prez is pushing this thing which has so many Americans FURIOUS with him and threatening to never vote for him again. But the Mexicans are just going to spit at it and not be at all impressed because they will settle for nothing less than full, blanket amnesty. Well, then, the heck with them! Give them nothing, then! Anything we offer them that is less than full amnesty, they will consider to be mere crumbs, and they will turn their noses up at it. So Bush ought to give them nothing, and at least that way, the Americans won't be mad at him!
UN Conference To Promote Global Taxes; Bush Will Attend
"The March 18-22 International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, is organized by the U.N. with the participation of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. It will mark the first-ever "summit-level" international conference on global development, and Bush is one of more than fifty world leaders scheduled to attend."
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