Mexico Cheers Passage of Immigration Bill

Mexico Cheers Passage of Immigration Bill in Senate Committee, Credits Migrant Marches

By MARK STEVENSON

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - Mexicans cheered the proposal approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee to legalize undocumented migrants and provide temporary work visas, and credited huge marches of migrants across the United States as the decisive factor behind the vote.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said the vote was the result of five years of work dating to the start of his presidential term in 2000, and puts Mexico one step closer toward the government's goal of "legalization for everyone" who works in the United States.

"My recognition and respect for all the Hispanics and all the Mexicans who have made their voice heard," Fox said. "We saw them turn out this weekend all across the United States, and that's going to count for a lot as we move forward."

Some Mexican media outlets were even more euphoric, predicting final approval for the committee bill as drafted, and suggesting the weekend demonstrations showed Mexico still holds some sway over former territories which it lost in the 1846-48 Mexican-American War.

"With all due respect to Uncle Sam, this shows that Los Angeles has never stopped being ours," reporter Alberto Tinoco said on the Televisa television network's nightly news broadcast, referring to a Saturday march in Los Angeles that drew an estimated 500,000, mainly Mexicans.

But U.S. ambassador Tony Garza warned Mexicans on Monday that the proposal still faces a long, difficult path through Congress.

"The debate will no doubt be heated and at times contentious," Garza wrote in an open letter distributed in Mexico City. "The debate in the Senate is only one part of the lengthy process."

The bill is designed to strengthen enforcement of U.S. borders, regulate the flow into the country of so-called guest workers and determine the legal future of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The bill would double the Border Patrol and authorizes a "virtual wall" of unmanned vehicles, cameras and sensors to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border. It also allows more visas for nurses and agriculture workers, and shelters humanitarian organizations from prosecution if they provide non-emergency assistance to illegal residents.

The most controversial provision would permit illegal aliens currently in the country to apply for citizenship without first having to return home, a process that would take at least six years.

Fox has been pushing for a migration accord that would grant some form of legal status to many of the estimated 6 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States. He is likely to bring up the topic when he meets with President Bush starting Thursday in Cancun.

Although a bill granting amnesty to illegal immigrants is unlikely to be approved by Congress, Fox remains hopeful that at least a guest-worker program will be put in place before he leaves office on Dec. 1.

If the United States approves such a program, it would bolster Fox's image and aid the prospects of Felipe Calderon, presidential candidate for Fox's National Action Party, or PAN, said George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary.

"Fox is looking for some way to be remembered in history," Grayson said.

Illegal migration has emerged as a significant issue in the campaigns of Mexico's three major presidential hopefuls for the July 2 elections, and the United States has asked Mexico to do more to strengthen security along their common border.



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