US-Mexico immigrant fence 'absurd'

US President George W Bush has arrived in Mexico on the final leg of his seven-day tour of Latin America.

US-Mexico immigrant fence 'absurd'

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, the world's third-richest man, has called on Bush for more regional investments and criticised the building of a US-Mexican border fence.

Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire, said the fence being built to try to stop immigrants from entering the US illegally was "absurd".
US immigration policies are unpopular across much of Latin America, helping left-wing leaders such as Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, to gain support. Hugo Chavez has used a parallel tour to speak out against what he calls the interference of the "American empire".


Illegal immigration from Mexico into the US is the thorniest problem between the two neighbours, with drug trafficking a not-so-distant second.


These issues stand to dominate the agenda when Bush meets Calderon, a fellow conservative elected last year, bucking a trend towards the left in Latin America.


"The system needs to be fixed," Bush said.


"We don't want people to feel like they have to get stuffed into the back of a truck and pay exorbitant fees to 'coyotes' to come and try to realise dreams," Bush said, referring to traffickers who transport undocumented workers across the US-Mexican border.


Mexicans account for more than half of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the US.



Mexican riot police guard  A la Patria monument during a protest against Bush's visit [Reuters]



'Waning influence'

President Bush arrived late on Monday in the colonial town of Merida in the south-east state of Yucatan, where he will hold talks with one of his closest regional allies, President Felipe Calderon.

Drug trafficking is expected to be high on the agenda. Tackling the country's drug cartels has been Mr Calderon's priority since he won a close election at the end of last year.

Through federal troop deployments, the Mexican government has tried to clamp down in regions where the drug gangs rule with near impunity.

However, correspondents say there will be difficult topics between the two men.

The US is planning to construct hundreds of kilometres of fencing along the border to try to prevent the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico - something Mr Calderon has strongly criticised.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Merida says it is unlikely they will find common ground to resolve the issue, other than a renewed commitment by Mr Bush to seek support for his guest worker programme.

Healthy immigration


Slim, whose wealth from his telecommunications, retail and industrial firms is estimated at $49bn by Forbes magazine, said US companies should build large, high-quality hospitals on the Mexican end of the 3,200km border.


"This would reduce health costs in the United States," Slim said.


Carlos Slim wants to see legal
immigration supported [AFP]
Cheaper Mexican salaries - from construction workers to nurses - would lower hospital costs and fees, he said, emphasising that the increase in US investments would stem the flow of immigrants moving into the US.


"What is needed is legal immigration, immigration accords, but not one just for highly qualified people," Slim said.


Bush said on Monday in Guatemala that he wants a breakthrough on US immigration reform by August. 


Bush failed to get an immigration overhaul through the then Republican-led congress last year due to conservative concerns over a porous US-Mexico border.




Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16