Mexico’s President Vincente Fox visits the

More from this show

HORIZONTE highlights the visit of Mexican President Vicente Fox to the Valley. Guests include Tessie Borden, Mexico correspondent for the Arizona Republic, and Ricardo Pimentel, columnist and editorial board member at the Arizona Republic. Also, an interview with Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexico’s Undersecretary for North America, Foreign Affairs.

>> Jose: Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas and welcome to "Horizonte." Tonight we will take a look at President Fox's historic trip to Arizona and discuss the controversial issues surrounding his visit and hear from a member of his cabinet about Fox's goals and plans to improve the lives of immigrants. Earlier this week Mexico's President Vicente Fox traveled to Arizona. In this historic visit he met with Arizona's political leaders to discuss business and trade issues and immigration. The goal of the talks are to strengthen relations between Arizona and Mexico. Fox also met with other border state governors in New Mexico and Texas this week. Mike Sauceda has the story.

>> Reporter: It's being called a historic visit, Mexican President Vicente Fox kicked off a three-day tour of the southwest with a stop in the Valley. Senator Jeffrey Jones of the Mexican state of Chihuahua said the Fox visit was very important to both countries.

>>Jeffrey Jones: Well, I think there will be many benefits from this thing, but I think it's just a general -- generally speaking it's an opportunity to get together and -- the first time a Presidential visit has been here in the State of Arizona. I think in and of itself has an important impact, but it's just creating greater dialogue, greater closeness.

>> Reporter: His first stop was at The Biltmore in Phoenix where he met with local leaders and also held a meeting with several Mexican dignitaries and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. She later introduced him at a luncheon.

>>Janet Napolitano: The President of Mexico, Mr. Vicente Fox.

>>Vicente Fox: Again, thank you very much for this invitation. Because this has been an important day for better relationships between Sonora, Mexico, and Arizona and the United States. This is a great day for improving and enhancing this ancient tie and relationship that we have. I'm really pleased to be here this day, to be here at this luncheon with the business community of Arizona. We are all determined to make every effort so that together government, entrepreneurs of both this state and my country give a new impaw.

>>Janet: Mr. President, your presence here can only serve to strengthen the bond that Arizona and Mexico already share and the visit come at a time when Arizona and Mexico are approaching a critical economic crossroads. Everyone here understands the importance that Arizona and Mexico hold for one another as trade partners, we have, as has been mentioned, exchanged $6.4 billion worth of goods of year.

>> Reporter: Trade was a major issue discussed during the visit. Fernando Canales of the Mexican Department of Economy talked about the importance of N.A.F.T.A.

>>Fernando Canales: We're here celebrating the 10th anniversary of N.A.F.T.A. and it's proven to be an excellent tool to develop trade and through trade job creation and wealth. Yes, we do have some problems. The trade volume between our two countries is greater than $260 billion if I recall correctly the figure.

>> Reporter: Of course, immigration was a constant topic during the Fox visit underscored by a deadly shootout by immigrant smugglers on interstate 10 south of the Valley. Congressman Jeff flake was at The Biltmore and talked with him about his guest worker program.

>>Jeff Flake: It will provide a legal frameworker, for willing workers, to come and be matched with willing employers. In doing so they would be allowed to enter through legal checkpoints and not have to risk their lives in the desert. There should be no reason why any willing worker, anybody who is coming simply to work for economic reasons should have to die in the desert and this would allow them to enter through legal entry points. So it will make a huge difference.

>> Reporter: Fox wrapped up his visit with a speech to his compatriots at the Phoenix Civic Plaza promising to change the Mexican constitution to allow dual citizenship.

>>Vicente: Mexico works in all fronts possible so that all Mexicans in the exterior look forward in the execution of their rights. Our chamber of commerce in congressional -- chamber of deputies approved a constitutional reform that once it's approved by some of the local authorities will give a lot of those exercises for Mexican citizens to exercise their citizenry here and exercise citizenship here without losing the Mexican citizenship either.

>> Jose: Joining us tonight are two Arizona Republic journalists who covered the President's visit, Tessie Borden, the Republic's Mexico City correspondent and Ricardo Pimentel, columnist and member of the editorial board. I'd like both of you to answer the question why this visit and why now. Tessie, you first from the point of view of the Mexicans in Mexico and then, Ricardo, if you'd answer that question as well.

>>Tessie Borden: Well, there was some criticism in Mexico for him taking the trip now. There's two things going on in the Congress right now that are from their point of view very important. One, the budget is about to be presented and, two, there is a lot of discussion on electric reform, opening the electric sector to privatization. But there was also some sense, some recognition, that any visit to the United States is an important point.

>> Jose: Ricardo.

>>Ricardo Pimental: It's to soften us up, to prep us, for -- in advance of his visit with President Bush perhaps in January. It's to tell us that these are the issues Mexico thinks is very important, investment and immigration, but it wants to tell us its side of the story on immigration particularly.

>> Jose: What influence with his discussions with governors have on his discussions with President Bush on a federal issue?

>>Ricardo Well, governors talk to the President. Governors have as much -- almost as much access to ink print, news, as the President does, and can sort of pave the way for those discussions.

>> Jose: Tessie, one of the President's three areas of emphasis was trade and business opportunities. You touched a little bit on some reforms that are going on in Mexico that would make that easier. What do you see as the business opportunities for Arizona businesses in Mexico? What's the reality.

>>Tessie: Well, in terms of the electric reform that's going on, if he succeeds in opening up the sector a little bit more, immediately TEP is looking at running an electric pipeline into Sonora.

>> Jose: That would be Tucson electric power?

>>Tessie: That's right. And they are looking into tapping into the Sonoran grid and this would certainly ease it. Aside from that, I think his trips are always punctuated by trying to sell Mexico as place to invest, as a place to -- that is friendly to foreign businesses. I think that's a real key to what he sees as the economic recovery of Mexico.

>> Jose: Ricardo, second of the three areas of of emphasis was immigration, of course. You met with him in the editorial board meeting. What is President Fox's view on that subject.

>>Ricardo: Well, he is frankly confounded by the notion in this country that migration is a problem. He views it as win-win, win for Mexico in the form of remittances -- he calls the Mexican nationals in this country heroes. And a win for the United States. He says very bluntly that our economic wealth, we wouldn't have as much if not for the work of the migrants. He's confounded by that, and he also has centralism views -- views Mexico's labor as their contribution to a partnership, a partnership that includes the United States and Canada, and he talks in terms of a block that has to compete with European union and the Asian countries, and he thinks that we frankly are belittling their contribution.

>> Jose: Speaking of contributions, earlier before the President's visit, congressman Hayworth published an open letter to President Bush effectively saying that Mexico wasn't making its fair contribution to controlling immigration and we have a question I would like you to comment on. This was provided by rusty Childress who is one of the leaders of the protect Arizona now initiative that would deny benefits to undocumented workers. His question is, would it be a better idea if Fox first helped us to secure the borders and pay the bill for the 10 million illegal aliens living here now before he asked us for amnesty and didn't he just put the cart before the horse on this one? What's your response on those questions?

>>Tessie: Well, there are some things that Mexico can do and some things that it frankly can't. It's not possible for Mexico to limit Mexicans freely leaving country, just as the United States cannot put any limits on Americans leaving the country here. But there are things that the Mexican government can do in terms of, for example, bringing more jobs, even helping with the kind of things that are already available to Mexican migrants like, for example, legal working visas and regularizing more the distribution of those. Right now they tend to be controlled by a very few people.

>> Jose: Those would be things that would actually facilitate the flow of immigration, legal immigration. But I gather from at least some people in this state their concern is having people come here to work and they want the Mexican government to somehow stop that.

>>Tessie: Well, again, I think from the Mexican government's point of view and I think are from most of Mexicans' point of view, there's very little that the government can do to just sort of close their own borders and say, you can't come out. There have been some campaigns to try to dissuade Mexicans from coming up in terms of saying, it's too dangerous. You can lose your life, you can be assaulted, things like that. It could devote more money to those campaigns, but closing its own borders and telling them you can't leave because we don't want you to go to the United States, you can't do it.

>> Jose: Ricardo your answer to those questions from Mr. Childress?

>>Ricardo Well, Mexico could always do more to create more jobs for Mexicans. I think that's clear.

>> Jose: That's a very long-term effort, though --

>>Ricardo: It is a long-term effort, and it sort of ignores the magnet that we are for the migrants. There's no -- there are no shortages of employers for these workers. Frankly, if we had a magic wand and made them all go away, we'd have to recreate them because the economy needs them that much, and we'll need them even more in the next 20 years when we will create 33 million unskilled labor jobs. Who is going to fill them? I don't think rusty will.

>>Tessie: There's also something to be said for the way that immigration enforcement happens in this country. The politically easy thing to do is to focus on border enforcement, but very few people have talked about the employers and how there's very little enforcement inside of the U.S. in terms of people who hire these migrants. There's a lot of claims of "we don't know," "they're using fake documents," but the INS hasn't conducted, for example, seminars for employers on how to detect fake documents. Not enough of that is being done. These agents have complained about that to me.

>> Jose: Ricardo, what about that?

>>Ricardo: Well, Wal-Mart not withstanding, I think she's right. The fact is that we need these workers, that Americans won't do these jobs that the migrants are doing, and according to a national academy of science study, contributes $133 billion annually in state, local, and federal taxes, and it's a net benefit to us even after we pay for their social costs. So there would be huge social costs if we cut off the border, if we told these workers to all go away. We wouldn't have the economy we have.

>> Jose: Tessie?

>>Tessie: The American government already tried once to close the borders during Nixon's administration, and it -- in just a week or so, they were able to see that it was creating chaos, not just on the border, but rippling out into the country.

>> Jose: There may be all kind of logical arguments in if inning we should be encouraging immigration but the sentiment is very strong against immigration, perhaps most strongly in Arizona. What impact will President Fox's visit have on initiatives such as the protect Arizona now initiative?

>>Ricardo For the staunch antiimmigrant crowd, President Fox, or any President of Mexico, will always have horns growing out of his head. We're not going to change that. It's the mainstream, the middle who frankly don't have a lot of knowledge about the complexity of immigration, the push and the pull, and I think the more they are educated to that, the more they can act on that. President Fox's visit, I think, helped educate them to that, that it's more complex than the protect Arizona now folks would have us believe.

>> Jose: We had the shooting. What impact did that have?

>>Ricardo: Probably a negative impact, but I would submit that the immigration debacle that we have now contributes to the smugglers by making it illegal, we have created a black market, and if we regularize it, make it mo orderly and legalize it, I think a lot of those incidents would be cut down.

>>Tessie: I also think that there may be a bit of a disconnect in the way law enforcement looks at immigrant smugglers. I've had several, including Terry Goddard, tell me that they believe these to be very large, very well organized groups. It's strictly organized crime. He may have a point, but I suspect that there's also very small operators that tend to operate in a flatter network, and frankly many family members simply who are bringing people over themselves.

>> Jose: Now, a third important aspect from the President's perspective of this trip was reaching out, communicating with the Mexican community here, and people of Mexican decent. What was his message to those people and did he succeed in conveying it?

>>Ricardo: I think his message is consistent. You're heroes. You contribute to the wealth of Mexico and the United States, and that we care about you, we care enough about you to at least float some proposals about you voting here in Mexican elections, that we are going to say the right things because there's a sense, I think, in Mexico that no one else is standing up for immigrants here, we are going to say the right things about your human rights and your human dignity.

>>Tessie: I suspect, though, that that kind of support is beginning to wear down in some sectors of -- I had a chance to talk with some immigrant leaders who are --

>> Jose: Here in Arizona?

>>Tessie: In Arizona and in California, who are beginning to say, we want more than words. We are happy you consider us heroes, but back that up with actions. You gave us an immigrant office. You took it away. You haven't been able to bring us the vote in Mexican elections. Do something for us.

>> Jose: We talked a lot about the pluses and minuses from the Mexican perspective, at least President Fox's perspective. What about Arizona, what did Arizona get out of this visit, Ricardo?

>>Ricardo: I think Governor Napolitano got lot of exposure. I mean, she hosted a head of state. A lot of governors don't get to do that. And I think she handled herself fairly well. I think the -- it's unfortunate that the shooting had to occur on a number of levels, but I think it was overall a plus for Governor Napolitano.

>> Jose: Any other benefits you saw from this visit for Arizona?

>>Ricardo: Showing the mainstream Arizonans that the Mexican President doesn't have horns growing out of his head.

>> Jose: In speaking about negative images, Tessie, my sense is that Arizona has had a negative image problem recently because of the deaths in the desert. Does this visit from President Fox help counteract this?

>>Tessie: It may, in a certain sense, because there is a lot of coverage and because Governor Napolitano has had a very moderated, very reasonable way of responding to charges of the migrant -- the migrant ranchers -- the vigilante ranchers looking for migrants in the desert. I think her actions also speak specifically the -- the convictions of the two vigilantes in Yuma did a lot to show people in Mexico that not all Arizonans feel like these groups.

>> Jose: Ricardo, Tessie, thank you both for joining us from "The Arizona Republic." We appreciate your insights on this visit from President Fox. During Fox's visit I asked his Foreign Relations Undersecretary for North America Geronimo Gutierrez about the President's agenda.

>>Jose: Geronimo Gutierrez, Undersecretary of Foreigh Affiairs, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." The President will be meeting with Mexicans and people of Mexican decent here in Arizona. What is his message to them.

>>Geronimo Gutierrez: Thank you, first of all, Jose, for this opportunity to speak to you and the audience. The President came here with very clear objectives in general. One has to do with establishing and promoting a political dialogue with authorities here, with state authorities in three of the states that he is going to be visiting. In particular in Arizona he met with obviously Governor Napolitano and state legislators to promote a thorough reflection about the migration by lateral agenda. The second agenda is to continue to promote trade and investment relationship between Mexico and Arizona. Something you're very well aware of. Thirdly, the third objective, is to establish a contact and to address the issues that most concern Mexican communities here in Arizona and the United States. The message that President Fox brings to those communities is, first of all, that establishing -- advancing our migration agenda with the United States continues to be the top priority in terms of our foreign policy with the United States in his administration. Secondly, that his government, his administration, is deeply committed to making the rights of migrants being respected, labor and human rights, and working as closely as possible with the authorities here to make sure that that happens. And third, he wants to listen to what are their most pressing concerns and how can Mexico's government better redirect or direct its policies toward the migrants living in the United States or abroad from Mexico. Those are the three messages that are brought by President Fox to that community.

>> Jose: Now, we understand that one of President Fox's themes in his discussion with government leaders here is the acceptance of the matricula consular and issuance of driver's licenses to the undocumented. Why is that important to Mexico?

>>Geronimo: For President Fox, ever since he started his administration, it is has been very important to improve the living conditions of people of the Mexican community living abroad and when we talking about the Mexican community living abroad, we're talking about in the United States where 98 -- between 95 and 98% of the Mexican community living abroad is concentrated. So improving their living standards is something very dear to him and a priority of the administration, and the matricula consular is important for two reasons. First of all, because it establishes a secure piece of identity by which the Mexicans here can come to light and the consular services can be better -- have better access to consular services. The other issue is it grants them the opportunity to enter the formal financial sector and that's very important, because, first of all, it helps them establish a series of services. It helps the financial sector in the United States, obviously. It helps reduce the costs of remittances to Mexico. So those are two important issues, as well as licenses, that helps improve significantly the living conditions of the Mexican population here in the United States. And that's why these topics are important for the Mexican government.

>> Jose: As President Fox himself has acknowledged, the immigration issue is a federal one. How do discussions with local officials help him in his discussions and meetings with President Bush?

>>Geronimo: What we think is that really it is at the local and state level where people feel hand to hand what are the great opportunities and at the same time what are the challenges in the migration phenomenon between the two countries. Here is where they live, the phenomenon more closely. Local communities, local authorities, state authorities live that phenomenon closely. So what we do here is hope to generate a reflection, a thorough and objective reflection, on what migration is really involved. And hopefully this will help to put further information in the debate on a nationwide basis and create a better atmosphere for whatever negotiation or talks are conducted at the federal level.

>> Jose: Some groups both within you United States and Mexico have raised concerns about the treatment of Mexico's indigenous people. What is Mexico doing time prove the economic and social status of those peoples?

>>Geronimo: Well, it is often asked, for example, when people here refer to the migration, it is often asked to me and other public officials, what is Mexico doing to improve the living conditions of Mexicans in their country. I think there's several things. First of all, President Fox has established an unprecedented education program for indigenous people and for the population in general in an attempt to generate better human capital and conditions and opportunities for those people. We're working also in the partnership for prosperity along with the United States, which is a private-public partnership which intends to channel business resources and private resources into those regions of Mexico that are more impoverished and usually have the highest immigration intensity to the United States. We're also working on several programs, microfinance, in order to generate opportunities for these people. So it's a comprehensive program by the Fox administration in order to generate conditions that for these people in their own territory.

>> Jose: Secretary Gutierrez, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

>>Geronimo: Thank you very much. It is my pleasure.

>> Jose: Please join us next week for more in-depth coverage of issues affecting the Latino community. That's our show for tonight. I hope you enjoyed it and hope you enjoy the rest of your evening. Good night.

Tessie Borden: Mexico correspondent for the Arizona Republic;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024
airs April 18

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates as part of ‘AZ Votes 2024’

Earth Day Challenge graphic with the Arizona PBS logo and an illustration of the earth

Help us meet the Earth Day Challenge!

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 12

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

The Capital building with text reading: Circle on Circle: Robert Lowell's D.C.
May 2

An evening with ‘Poetry in America’

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: