United States President George W Bush has pledged to reform controversial immigration laws during a two-day visit to Mexico but his host President Felipe Calderón strongly criticized US plans to build a border fence of 1.200 kilometers.
Mr Bush made the announcement on Tuesday at the start of talks with Mexico's Calderon, on the final leg of his seven-day tour of Latin America
Speaking in the Mexican city of Merida, he said: "In the debate on migration, I remind my fellow citizens that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, that there are decent, hardworking honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families," Bush said next to Calderon. "And so, Mr. President, my pledge to you and your government ÃÂ¢€" but, more importantly, the people of Mexico ÃÂ¢€" is I will work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform." The US is planning to construct hundreds of kilometers of fencing along the border to try to prevent the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico - something Mr Calderon has strongly criticized and likens to the "Berlin Wall". A Conservative as Mr. Bush the Harvard educated Mr Calderon repeated his criticisms of the plans on Tuesday, saying that migration could not be stopped by building a fence. "We Mexicans fully respect the right of the people and the government of the United States to decide on your territory whatever is better for your concerns and security, but at the same time respectfully consider that a kilometer of road between Michoacán or in Zacatecas can be far more effective than ten kilometers of wall in Texas or Arizona", said Calderon. "We need the collaboration and the active participation of our neighbor," Calderon said, adding it was time for a fresh start to "direct our relationship toward a path of mutual prosperity." President Bush and his wife, Laura, toured the nearby Uxmal Ruins, the remains of an ancient sprawling Mayan city. Security was extremely tight in Merida. Schools were closed. The area around the hotels where Bush and Calderon are staying was guarded by police and surrounded by metal barriers. An estimated 3.000 Mexican security forces plus US Secret Service people and air coverage have converted the capital of Yucatan in a fortress. Like in the rest of his five countries one week tour of Latinamerica President Bush was greeted by hundreds of demonstrators protesting against his presence in Mexico. In Mexico City late Tuesday masked protestors with sticks, metal bars and stones tried to break through police barriers and take the US embassy. On Wednesday Bush and Calderon will hold a joint press conference and the US president will return to Washington.