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U.S. Department of State

Remarks En Route to Mexico City, Mexico

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Mexico City, Mexico
November 25, 2002

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you for joining us as we head down to Mexico City for the Binational Commission Meeting. This will be the first we’ve had since President Fox’s very successful summit visit this last September. You will recall we had one at that time incident to the Summit trip. The agenda I think is well known to you. We will discuss migration issues, border control issues, water issues. I think we’ll have a very in depth discussion on foreign policy issues, both regional foreign policy issues as well as more broadly. I did a lot with Foreign Secretary Castañeda on the Iraq resolution a few weeks ago, I think, which is a sign of Mexico’s involvement on the world stage as a member of the Security Council. I’m sure we’ll review the bidding on that, and Foreign Secretary Castañeda has always expressed an interest in the Middle East and other issues, so I think we’ll have a full discussion of those sorts of issues, and especially regional issues: Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela.

As you know there are a number of other cabinet officers who are already down there, or going down with me, such as Governor Whitman.

And so we are looking forward to a pretty good day in Mexico tomorrow. I will also have an opportunity, I think I will take a separate tour of the Visa consular section, and I am looking forward to that. An enormous number of people flow through that process, and I just want to get a sense of what it actually looks like and how they’re handling it, and what we can do to make sure it’s state of the art, so that people can come into our country rapidly but with safety and security for us as well as for them, and that ought to be the highlight of the day for me.

But anyway, but let me take whatever questions you might have on this trip or any other subjects.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you prepared to make specific proposals concerning the granting of a legal status to illegal Mexican migrants during this trip?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no new specific proposals. We will be discussing migration issues, all aspects of our migration policy, regularization, worker permits, all the issues you are familiar with, but I have no proposals. The situation has changed quite a bit since the Guanajuato summit of early 2001, with 9/11, with the creation of the Homeland Security Department, which as you know, the bill was signed by the president this afternoon and Governor Tom Ridge was announced as the new Secretary-to-be of the Department of Homeland Security, and Gordon Englund as the Deputy Secretary, currently the Secretary of the Navy. And with INS, then flowing into the Homeland Security Department there are a lot of pieces in play. And we now have of course also a different composition in Congress as a result of the elections earlier this month. So all of these factors I want to discuss with Foreign Secretary Castaneda and Secretary Creel and John Ashcroft, and Mr. Zigler, and of course Mr. Zigler is also leaving next week.

So there are a lot of things going on, but the President has not lost his desire to move forward on this front. He fully shares President Fox’s desire to see movement on this, and Jorge Castaneda and I will be discussing how to move forward with all of these different things taking place. But I have no specific new proposal to put on the table. Ambassador Garza, I think, was reflecting all of these items in his current statements. I talked to him earlier today, and he was just making the point that we remained interested and determined to move forward on all these issues, but progress hasn’t been as rapid as we might have liked because of a number of intervening circumstances that I just touched on.

[ ... ]

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with the election coming up in 2004, don’t you have just a window here, just a short window to negotiate any migration agreement that you might like to develop?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will work as hard as we can and as fast as we can to see what is possible. But really, the whole situation changed radically as a result of 9/11. We have to understand, we have to know who is coming into the country. We have to work with Canada and Mexico on border security issues. We have to deal with the whole issue of people coming to our country from elsewhere, and that is taking a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy, and we will work as hard we can and as fast as we can, and we understand the natural desire of President Fox to have this in place as soon as we can. And I will talk to Foreign Secretary Castaneda about how much progress I think it might be possible to make in the year ahead.

We’re not dragging our feet, we are just facing certain realities that I will discuss with the Foreign Secretary. We are going to move quickly in this whole visa issue. I am very pleased that Congress confirmed Assistant Secretary Maura Harty who is with me today, and she has already started to clear up a number of the issues that were causing us difficulties in recent weeks on visas and the like.

[ ... ]


Released on November 25, 2002