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Bush promotes 'smart border' with Mexico

Bush promotes 'smart border' with Mexico

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will build closer ties with its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, President Bush told radio listeners on Saturday.

Bush pledged more open borders for legitimate travel and trade, while slamming the doors on terrorism and other illegal activities.

He and Mexican President Vicente Fox announced Friday that their two countries will move toward establishing a "smart border" using close cooperation and more advanced technology.

A tighter border will make the United States safer and build closer relationships with neighboring countries, Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"We'll work with the Mexican government to identify individuals who pose threats to North America before they arrive here," Bush said, noting that the countries would share technology to inspect traffic on cross-border rail lines and at major ports of entry.

"We will make sure that people with legitimate business, who travel regularly across the border, can cross easily -- so border authorities can focus on greater risks. And we will share information more quickly and efficiently with our Mexican friends," Bush said.

The plan will be similar to an agreement the United States signed with Canada in December.

Bush and Fox met at the close of a United Nations conference on poverty in Monterrey, Mexico, which the U.S. president attended at the start of a four-day trip in Latin America.

In his broadcast remarks Saturday, Bush noted that he was visiting "three strong American allies -- Mexico, Peru and El Salvador -- to reaffirm the central importance I place on American relations with the rest of our hemisphere."

Democrats say they're more responsive

Democrats argued Saturday that the president's trip is part of an orchestrated effort to curry favor with Latino voters in the United States.

"Our community knows the difference between rhetoric and results. They know the difference between pandering and producing," said Antonio Villaraigosa, speaker emeritus of the California State Assembly, in the weekly Democratic address.

He said Democrats are working in the Hispanic community and are responsive to the needs of Hispanic families.

"We understand that at its core, the Latino agenda is the American agenda," he said.

Villaraigosa said Democrats are working to protect Social Security, which he said was the only source of income for 40 percent of Hispanic seniors, and that the Republican plan to privatize Social Security would lead to cuts in retirement benefits.

They're also working to improve education and accused the Bush Administration of cutting funding for dropout prevention and programs, he said.

Villaraigosa also said Republicans have "tried repeatedly to eliminate programs that help provide Hispanic small businesses with access to capital," while Democrats believe more Hispanics are needed in corporate boardrooms.




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