Fox: U.S. to ease security checks on Mexicans
Leader objected to fingerprinting, photographing Mexican visitors
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- Mexicans visiting the United States for less than three days won't have to undergo fingerprinting and photographing, Mexican President Vicente Fox said Saturday at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
"We welcome the news that was confirmed today, with regard to visitors to the United States from Mexico," Fox told reporters after the second day of discussions with Bush.
"We recognize the value to those who come to the United States to work, to study, to contribute, and we appreciate what this will do to the flow of visitors, now that they will not have to be photographed or fingerprinted at the front-end of short visits to the United States," Fox said.
Fox was referring to the many Mexican citizens who hold a Border Crossing Card (BCC), which already holds biographical and biometric information.
This week, Asa Hutchinson, under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the House Committee on Government Reform that Mexican cardholders traveling less than 25 miles from the border zone and staying no longer than 72 hours in the United States would not be required to enroll in the monitoring program, called US VISIT.
"Down the road a BCC could become a US VISIT card in which the frequent traveler is quickly identified and allowed entry on dedicated lanes," he said.
Bush and Fox also discussed the initiation this year of a program, sanctioned under the North American Free Trade Agreement, in which professionals from either country can work in the other country, Fox said. "This, too, is good news," he added.
Bush, noting that trade between the two countries has tripled over the past decade to $230 billion, said he was committed to expanding it further.
Mexico is the second-largest trading partner with the United States, and the United States is Mexico's largest, he said. "There's no future in walling America off from the rest of the world. American workers and families, no less than the people of Mexico and the people of all nations, benefit from free and fair trade," he said.
Fox referred to the trade agreements between the two countries as "a two-way commercial street" that has resulted in more employment in the United States.
The presidents also discussed a temporary worker proposal Bush announced in January that would grant undocumented workers who were in the United States prior to that date the right to remain in the country legally for a period of three years that could be renewed.
But Bush offered little to reporters on the topic. Asked when the policy might be put into effect, Bush said, "The president just discussed the issue of the border-crossing cards, and he discussed the professional visas, and so we're making progress."
He added, "I certainly hope that Congress takes this issue up, but there's no telling what is going to happen in an election year, so it's very difficult to give a date."
Bush's trade policies have emerged as a political issue, and he defended them staunchly in the face of Democrats' complaints that they have boosted unemployment in the United States.
"This nation must reject economic isolationism," said Bush.