Remarks by President Bush and President Fox of Mexico in Press Availability
PRESIDENT BUSH: Last week, I proposed a new temporary worker program that will help further the cause of safe, legal and orderly migration. This temporary worker program will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. Under this program, undocumented workers currently in the United States will be able to come out of the shadows and establish legal identities. All participants in the program will be issued a temporary worker card that will allow them to travel back and forth between their home and the United States without fear of being denied reentry into our country.
This plan is not amnesty, placing undocumented workers on the automatic path of citizenship. I oppose amnesty because it encourages the violation of our laws and perpetuates illegal immigration. My proposal expects that most temporary workers will eventually return permanently to their home countries when the period of work that I will be negotiating with the Congress has expired. And I think it's important to give financial incentives to those workers in order for them to make the decision to return home permanently.
I'll work with President Fox and other leaders on a plan to give temporary workers credit in their home countries' retirement systems for the time they work in the United States. I support making it easier for temporary workers to contribute a portion of their earnings to tax-preferred savings accounts, money they can collect as they return to their native countries.
Under this program the United States will benefit from the honest labor of foreign workers. Our neighbors will benefit as productive citizens return home with money to invest and to spend in their own nation's economy. This program will be more humane, humane to workers, and will live up to the highest ideals of our nations.
While my nation benefits from the dreams that newcomers bring to America, I believe that people should be better able to achieve their dreams at their own home. The best way in the long-term to reduce the pressures that create illegal immigration is to expand economic opportunity in countries at both ends of an immigrant's journey. This is why President Fox and I are committed to free and fair trade. We've seen it lift both our nations and our economies. Since 1994, trade between our two countries has grown from $100 billion to $232 billion. We will continue to work together, and with Canada, to enhance North American prosperity and security.
We're also working to reduce the cost of sending money home to families and local communities. These remittances exceed $10 billion per year. But the cost of such transfers reduces the amount of money that hardworking people can return to their families. Our two countries have made it a priority to keep hard-earned money in the hands of those who need it most.
In recent years, our efforts under our U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Prosperity Initiative have reduced the cost of remittances by almost 60 percent.
Two years ago, in this city, world leaders agreed on a vision to expand opportunity and spread prosperity throughout the hemisphere. With this year's Special Summit, we continue to put that vision into action. Through the Inter-American Development Bank, we are expanding access to credit for small business entrepreneurs, the key engines of growth and job creation for any nation's economy. We're helping nations improve their legal systems to protect property rights so that owners can use their property as collateral to finance the purchase of a home or to start a business. We're investing in the health and education of our peoples, and we're intensifying our common fight against corruption.
President Fox and I will also continue our efforts to support democracy in the region. We will work with the Organization of American States to ensure the integrity of the presidential recall and referendum process underway in Venezuela. And as part of our effort to protect the institutions of democracy in Bolivia, we will co-chair the initial meeting of the Bolivia Support Group, in Washington this coming Friday.
Our bilateral relationship is strong; this summit's agenda is full. The United States will continue to work with our friends in the neighborhood in a spirit of common purpose and mutual respect.
Thank you Mr. President.
Q: Question for both of you. President Fox, once more on migrating matters, what else did the Mexican government propose? What else can we expect for the Mexican workers? Can we expect the same treatment of the Canadian ones without any approaches? What are the purposes in reference to migrants? Does this have election purposes? And will the United States avoid violating the human rights in our airports? that is the question -- and the question is addressed for both Presidents.
PRESIDENT FOX: First of all, I would like to say, what else can we wish? What we want is the plan presented by President Bush. We hope that the plan has a happy ending to the political process that should be followed within the United States so that it can be approved in the Congress of the United States.
I would say that this is what we want. The plan, as it was mentioned before, is a very important step forward for many Mexican workers in the United States. Those that have the direct benefit of this will recognize and acknowledge this proposal that has a great importance for them. Not only -- not only because they can see that their labor rights and their human rights are completely respected there, but there is a human face on this proposal, a human face that has to do with the families of these workers.
Consequently, for us it is a plan that meets the demands and its measures. And our will should be to support the plan to be achieved and go on.
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PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, I appreciate your wonderful cooperation that we've achieved between our two countries. You've just articulated that level of cooperation in a way that I don't think I ever could. So that's my answer to the second question you asked.
My answer to the first question you asked is that I proposed this change in immigration law because I think it is the right thing to do. It recognizes the reality of our country. The President and I talked about whether or not -- the ramifications of this initiative to Mexico. But the migration policy applies to all foreign workers. But the truth is, the vast majority of foreign workers in America are from Mexico. We know that in Texas very well. And I repeat to you that this is -- these workers are a benefit to my country. These are hardworking, decent, honorable people that are in our country because -- to fill jobs that others won't take, on the one hand, and also to make a living, to put money -- to get money and to send money back to their families.
There is a deep human desire for a mother or a father to provide for his or her family. And that's how I view the motivations of good, decent Mexican citizens working in our country. And it seems like to me it makes sense to have laws that treat people with respect. We are a country of law. Rule of law is important in America. And, therefore, we ought to not have a system that is based upon an undocumented under-class, but a system that is based upon law.
And so I -- you said something about politics -- yes, there's politics involved. But the reason I made -- and there will be politics probably involved in whether or not it passes Congress. But the reason I proposed the initiative is because it is the right thing for America to do.
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PRESIDENT FOX: Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon.
END 2:45 P.M. (Local)