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Mexico's Fox: We have 'obligation to opportunity'

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Mexican President Vicente Fox

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(CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday that he expects an immigration bill to be passed by week's end, but comments from other U.S. lawmakers left it difficult to predict what kind of legislation might ultimately win passage.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke Sunday with Mexican President Vicente Fox about his country's role in the debate and the results of a summit last week in Cancun, Mexico, with President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

BLITZER: Help us understand what, if anything, was accomplished in Cancun on this very sensitive subject of illegal immigration into the United States.

FOX: Wolf, how are you? Good to be in your program.

This meeting in Cancun was extraordinary. It held a lot of accomplishments; to begin with, to get the friendship and the personal relationship stronger, especially with the visit of the prime minister from Canada, Stephen, because [becoming acquainted] at [the ancient Mayan ruins at] Chichen Itza and the meetings gave us the opportunity to really exchange about different subjects.

On the subject of migration, a bilateral subject among United States and Mexico, we had the opportunity to review where is the issue right now, where is the debate.

And it's clear that the issue is [in the] U.S. Congress, so the ball now is there. And we fully respect the sovereignty of the U.S. Congress. And I know they will take the most appropriate decision for both, for the betterment of the United States and for Mexico.

We understand the issue of migration as a responsibility that we share, both countries, but we have to deal with it until we can have a flow of migrants or the situation of migration in United States handled with an orderly manner, with a legal manner, secure manner.

And we are here to cooperate and do our part of the job and exercise our clear responsibilities that we have on the issue, which is building up opportunities for our people in Mexico.

That is what we want at the very end. And we're trying hard. We're working on this, bringing in new jobs, granting new opportunities to people in their communities. So this is the situation right now.

BLITZER: ... The president of the United States, he wants you to take more aggressive steps to stop the illegal immigration into the United States. Are you planning on taking any steps along your northern border with the United States to do that?

FOX: Absolutely, yes -- No. 1, by creating opportunities in Mexico. Right now, on the border there's 100,000 spaces available for jobs on the Mexican side. So we work hard on the opportunities.

No. 2, we work hard on the enforcement of the law and the security on the border. We work very closely together ... with the Homeland Security Department in the States, with Mr. [Michael] Chertoff.

We work on an everyday basis to make that border secure, to make sure that we comply with human rights respect, and we're doing the same actions and programs on the southern border. Because today, we have a strong migration coming from Central America into Mexico illegally, and then trying to move up to the United States.

Now, for instance, last year we withheld 240,000 Central Americans, and we sent them back to their communities, to their nations. So we're working on all aspects.

First, our obligation is to grant opportunities to our people in Mexico. No. 2 is to do our part of the responsibility in complying with the law and, yes, trying to retain our people here in Mexico.

BLITZER: The House version [of immigration legislation] would make illegal immigration a felony, would require employers to verify workers' status.

It would place serious fines for hiring illegal immigrants. It would build a 700-mile fence along part of the U.S.-Mexican border. It would not allow any guest worker program. The president of the United States wants a guest worker program.

What do you think of this 700- mile fence that so many members of the U.S. House of Representatives and some in the Senate would like to build?

FOX: Wolf, the specifics are hard to meet at this point of time. But let me tell you that I fully agree that it has to be a comprehensive resolution that, first of all, has to do with security, has to do with a border that really is sufficient -- but also has to do with the jobs that these people [are] doing in United States.

They are being hired by somebody. [The] U.S. economy needs this energy, needs this working force. At the same time, we know that we have to do the part of our responsibility that has to do with building up opportunities in Mexico.

Now, how we manage the border, it has to be No. 1 with security. And migration should be under the rules of a legal situation, has to be with order, the flow of migrants, and has to be secure, respecting their human rights.

And if we reach that situation, that desired situation, then there's no need for walls or there's no need for other actions now.

We are not just going to sit down here in Mexico and say, 'Oh, very good, we have now the opportunity to send people there.' No way. We understand our responsibility. ...

BLITZER: Mr. President, did you know there's serious criticism that elements of your government have actually encouraged illegal immigration from Mexico into the southern part of the United States for whatever economic or social reasons?

What do you say to those critics?

FOX: I deny that. That's not true. We work hard on the opposite, in trying to build up opportunities here in Mexico.

As a matter of fact, our people don't want to be there as long as they have opportunities here.

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