Immigration Bill Seen As Vital For U.S., Mexico

Immigration bill is seen as vital for U.S., Mexico

Web Posted: 05/09/2007 01:01 AM CDT
John MacCormack

With the U.S. Senate set to begin debate Monday on a comprehensive immigration bill, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaeda said Tuesday that the eyes of his homeland are focused on the issue.

“This is the single most important issue in Mexico by far. Nothing else even approaches it,” he said to an audience of about 150 at the University of Texas at San Antonio Downtown Campus.

And, said Castaeda, it is also critical that the United States and Mexico come to a bi-national agreement on immigration.

“The U.S. has an immigration agreement with Cuba, the country it considers its worst enemy, but doesn't have one with the country it considers its best friend,” he said.

Now a professor at New York University, Castaeda, while serving in the Cabinet of President Vicente Fox, challenged the United States to come up with a comprehensive solution to immigration and border security.

“It's the whole enchilada or nothing,” he famously vowed in 2001, meaning Mexico would not agree to any bi-national immigration deal that did not resolve the status of the 12 million people illegally living in the United States, establish a humane guest worker program and address border security.

But 9-11 scuttled bi-national immigration talks and put reform legislation in the United States on hold.

Stricter enforcement by the United States in recent years has also changed the immigration dynamic, leading many Mexicans to stay in the United States.

“They used to come and go, but now they stay because it's too dangerous and it costs too much,” he said of the estimated 6 million Mexicans staying illegally in the United States.

And, he said, if no immigration deal is reached, anti-American interests in Mexico will take advantage.

“It will give voice to the very anti-U.S., very anti-democracy, very anti-globalization interests. It will give them something to point to,” he said.

Castaeda scoffed at the thought that the United States will build a significant wall along the Mexican border, calling it a political fig leaf.

“It's become a symbol of American unfriendliness to Latin America, and to Mexico in particular,” he said.