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Dear Editor:
Please accept this as an op-ed piece.

House Committee Resolution on Immigration Stirs Indignation in Mexico

On May 9, 2003 the House Committee for International Relations passed a Resolution conditioning any future immigration agreement with Mexico on the right of U.S. companies to invest in "Pemex" (Petroleos Mexicanos), the state-run Mexican oil monopoly.

The Resolution was to convey the "sense of Congress" about this controversial subject. The initial text by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) called upon the U.S. to draft a comprehensive bill to gradually legalize undocumented Mexican nationals in the U.S. It was replaced by the text of Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC), providing that any immigration agreement would depend on Mexico's willingness to open its state petroleum industry to investment by US companies. The Committee vote was 24 Republicans in favor, 22 Democrats opposed.

Rep. Menendez immediately issued a Press Release asking: "What Does U.S.-Mexico Immigration Policy Have In Common With Access To Oil?" See his website at http://menendez.house.gov/view.cfm?id=45 He stated that his initial text gave the Committee "an opportunity to call upon President Bush to live up to his promise, and to bring fairness and justice to U.S.-Mexico migration policy." What the Committee did instead, he said, "turned a moment of hope and promise into yet another session of partisan politics, intolerance, and disrespect towards our neighbors to our south."

I have not yet received a copy of his Resolution from Rep. Ballenger, and my search for it on the internet has been fruitless. My source is therefore La Jornada, the Mexico City newspaper, for May 9, 2003 (my translation). The Resolution authored by Rep. Ballenger addresses Rep. Menendez's question of what access to oil has to do with immigration in these terms: "Pemex, the Mexican state monopoly, is inefficient and plagued by corruption. It needs a substantial reform of private investment in order to offer sufficient petroleum production to Mexico and the United States to nourish future economic growth. This, in turn, would slow down illegal immigration to the US."

A Republican member of the Committee, who insisted on anonymity, made this statement to La Jornada: "The subjects of immigration and Pemex are very emotional for both countries, and it is difficult to discuss them in a rational manner. But they must be discussed for the sake of better relations between the two countries. It is not right that a matter of concern to one country is not also a matter of concern to the other."

President Vicente Fox quickly rejected the "quid pro quo" put forward by the House Committee. His website for May 11, 2003 stated (my translation): "The President made it clear that the negotiation of an immigration agreement between the United States and Mexico has been a priority of his administration since he first took office. But there is no way that the negotiation of such an agreement will be made contingent upon the opening of Petroleos Mexicanos to foreign investment."

What does President Bush have to say to his "amigo" in Mexico? Can all this be ironed out during a weekend at the Crawford Ranch? Or will President Fox, like President Chirac, be among the world leaders who cannot expect an invitation?

Carl R. Baldwin



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