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Mexico's Fox Uneasy with Bush's Border Plan

MICHELE NORRIS host:

On now to the view from the other side of the border. As we mentioned Mexican President Vicente Fox called President Bush on Sunday to express his concerns about the National Guard plan. Mr. Bush's speech tonight will be watched closely in Mexico. The country sends the most migrants to the U.S., an estimated 400 thousand a year.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Mexico City.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:

In his regular morning press conference, Ruben Aguilar, President Fox's spokesman, said that the conversation on Sunday between the two leaders was an opportunity for President Bush to prize his counterpart of his border plans and for President Fox to raise his concerns.

Mr. RUBEN AGUILAR (spokesman for President Vicente Fox, Mexico): (Through translator) The Mexican government has insisted, and this is also what President Fox indicated to President Bush, that the problem of the border used to be comprehensive. It won't be solved by policing it. It has to be within the framework of a migration that is legal, orderly, safe and respectful of human rights.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Aguilar went on to say that Bush's plan does not threaten U.S./Mexico relations, but the move is raising alarm elsewhere here. The Franco-Mexican director of the pro-migrant group Sin Fronteras is Sabien Benet(ph). She says that there needs to be immigration reform in the U.S. before bolstering security at the border.

Ms. SABIEN BENET (Sin Fronteras): We have seen that as a reinforcement of border control has only led to more deaths, more accidents, and also more money and more clients for traffickers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mexicans have long complained of what they say are the heavy-handed tactics at the border. Benet says that she believes Bush's National Guard plan won't help to stop migration while sending exactly the wrong message.

Ms. BENET: I think that having the army at the border is like declaring that migrants are a menace to the integrity of the territory of the U.S., you know? And nowhere in the world immigration control is a mandate of any army, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But according to former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castanera, the National Guard plan is a sidebar to the more important issue of immigration reform being considered in Congress.

Mr. JORGE CASTANERA (Former Foreign Minister, Mexico): Firstly, I think this is really offensive and not particularly friendly to Mexico.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Vicente Fox has been pushing since he came to office in 2000 for an immigration accord that would legalize the status of the millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. and Castanera says that Mexico should have it's eye on that greater prize.

Mr. CASTANERA: If this is the price that Bush has to pay in order to get conservatives on board for a guest worker program, then I think it's an acceptable though regrettable price to pay.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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