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U.S. Department of State

Remarks at Joint Press Conference

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Foreign Ministry
Mexico City, Mexico
November 26, 2002

[ ... ]

I visited a visa-issuing section earlier today, saw the dedicated people who are hard at work there, and I go back with a renewed commitment to do everything we can to make that process as dignified, as efficient as possible and as fast as possible so time is not lost either there or on all the crossing points between Mexico and the United States.

We greatly value the enhanced cooperation on border security that the Government of Mexico has afforded in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Even as we work under the shadow of September 11th to improve border security, the Migration Group affirmed our strong commitment to advancing our bilateral migration agenda.

We realize the profound importance of migration issues to the wellbeing of the people and economy of both of our countries.

The Law Enforcement and Counternarcotics Group registered an extraordinary level of cooperation since Presidents Fox and Bush entered office. Our Departments of labor have signed an understanding on bilateral cooperation to eliminate child exploitation. Also, our Departments of Housing signed an understanding to improve housing financing and urban development, especially along the border.

I also want to take this opportunity to applaud the efforts of US and Mexican government and business leaders who have given such life and vitality to the new Partnership for Prosperity that was launched during President Fox's state visit to Washington last fall. The Partnership for Prosperity encourages investment in areas which have not yet benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

And I know that I speak for all members of the delegation when I say that we will return home with a renewed sense of momentum and enthusiasm for an even closer relationship with Mexico.

And Jorge, in conclusion, let me once again thank you for the hospitality that has been extended to me and the members of my delegation.

[ ... ]

QUESTION: This would be a question for Secretary Powell. I would like to know what, specifically, did you discuss about the migratory deal, and I would like you to tell me if you consider viable a final negotiation on this deal before the administration of President Bush reaches an end?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't talk about a specific deal. We took note of the fact that our two Presidents, at their first meeting in the beginning of 2001 Guanajuato Summit, committed themselves to working on all of the issues associated with migration. We are just as committed today as we were then. What the Secretary and I discussed today were the changes in the political situation caused by 9/11, by new election, by new Department of Homeland Security, by, really, a new Congress coming in with different leadership.

And we said that what we have to do is put new energy into our dialogue. I have a new Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Ambassador Maura Harty, who is here with me today. And we want to come up with an agenda of items that we can pursue over the next six months to a year and look first at those items that have the highest probability of achieving success and then slowly, but surely work our way into the items that are more difficult to resolve.

There is no timeline, as the Secretary said before. It's not something we have to finish before or after anyone's administration. It is something that is part of the regular dialogue between our two countries. But there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a priority for President Bush, just as it is a priority for President Fox, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to move forward; but we have to be realistic about the changes that have occurred over the last 14 months.

I just want to reassure the Mexican people that it has not gone off our agenda. We want Mexicans to travel to the United States, in some cases to make a new home, in other cases to find employment, in other cases to visit relatives. We want them to bring skills back. We want them to come back to their homes and share whatever wealth they have obtained in the United States through their efforts. They make a significant contribution to the American economy. They make a significant contribution to the nature of America, to what America is all about. And we want to find a way to regularize that migration back and forth in a way that brings dignity to the process, safety to the process, is based on trust, and we also realize that we have a large number of Mexicans living in the United States who are undocumented -- and this is a problem that will also have to be dealt with in due course for the same reason.

But these things will take time. These are not simple issues. They are difficult issues. If we could both snap our fingers and make all the problems go away, we would do so this moment. But it is not that easy. But we are committed to moving forward.

[ ... ]