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Bush promises push for immigration reform

Story Highlights

President Bush, Mexican president agree on need for secure border
• Felipe Calderon calls for creation of new jobs in Mexico
• Bush promises to push for immigration reform legislation
• Bush, Calderon meeting at Yucatan resort as Bush's five-nation trip winds up
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MERIDA, Mexico (CNN) -- President Bush vowed Tuesday to do all he can to push for changes in U.S. immigration laws, and stressed that he and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, were working together on immigration issues.

"My pledge to you and your government -- but more importantly, the people of Mexico -- is that I'll work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform," Bush said at a ceremony welcoming him to Mexico.

"Together we're working to ensure that we have a secure and modern border that speeds the legitimate flow of people and commerce, and stops those who threaten our common safety and prosperity," Bush said.

The conservative Mexican president, who eked out a narrow victory in July, was polite but critical in his assessment of current U.S. immigration policy, which has resulted in millions of Mexicans paying thousands of dollars each to make the risky trip through deserts and mountains to find jobs in America.

"I'm from Michoacan, one of the states that has suffered most from emigration," he said. The result has been separated families and "pueblos where old people live alone."

He added, "We lose in each emigrant the best of our country: young, strong workers. People who leave because they don't encounter opportunities here to move forward."

Calderon called for the generation of jobs in Mexico, "because this is the only way to resolve, at its base, the migration issue."

"There is nothing better for security and prosperity of the region than the prosperity of Mexico," he said.

"We share the proposal to maintain a secure border. People who live on both sides merit it -- as much the Americans as the Mexicans."

Calderon also referred to the flow of drugs into the United States but called on his neighbor to the north to help.

"As long as the demand for drugs isn't reduced in one territory, it will be very difficult to reduce the provision of it from ours," he said.

Bush, who served as governor of Texas before becoming president, began his administration by seeking closer ties with Mexico. But those efforts were sidelined by the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed.

Last year, Bush endorsed a "comprehensive" immigration reform bill that would couple tighter border controls with a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for the 10 million-plus illegal immigrants now estimated to live in the United States. But the measure stalled in Congress in the face of opposition from his own party.

Speaking in Guatemala on Monday, Bush said he hopes to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by August.

About 85 percent of the illegal immigrants entering the United States are from Mexico, which is the United States' third-largest trading partner.

The two leaders were meeting Tuesday at Hacienda Temozon, a resort outside Merida on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Following the meeting, Bush, Calderon, and their wives will tour Mayan ruins in Uxmal before sitting down for dinner in Merida.

They plan to hold a joint news conference in Merida on Wednesday after meeting with Mexican lawmakers in the morning.

Bush is scheduled to depart Merida for Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

Bush's trip also included stops in Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, and Guatemala. (Bush itinerary)

CNN's Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.


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President Bush, left, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon listen to the U.S. national anthem at welcoming ceremonies in Merida, Mexico, on Tuesday.

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