Immigration tops summit agenda

Via The Chicago Tribune
By Hugh Dellios

Tribune foreign correspondent
Published March 30, 2006

CANCUN, Mexico — President Bush arrived Wednesday
night in the Mexican resort of Cancun for a two-day summit with Mexican
President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that
is likely to be dominated by immigration issues.

The meetings Thursday and Friday will take place as the U.S. Senate
debates ways to control illegal immigration. Bush and Fox support the
idea of a guest-worker program, which the Senate will be debating as
the summit unfolds.

The main Senate proposal would create a
legal channel for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who enter the
U.S. illegally each year. It also would create an eventual path to
residency and citizenship for the nearly 12 million undocumented
workers already in the U.S., after they pay fines, pass criminal
background checks and learn English. But many senators prefer a tough
U.S. House bill that would make illegal immigration a felony and punish
employers of illegal immigrants without creating a temporary worker
program.

Goals

What Bush wants: To push immigration
reform in the context of improved cooperation among the U.S. and its
two North American neighbors and chief trading partners. The president
also will be pushing Mexico to demonstrate, with concrete steps, a
commitment to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

What Fox wants: To
put Mexico’s voice behind proposals to allow more workers to enter the
U.S. legally. Fox, who leaves office after an election to replace him
in July, has ceaselessly lobbied for U.S. immigration reform and would
score it as the crowning achievement of his six years in office.

What Harper wants: The new Canadian prime minister will be pushing the
U.S. to drop tariffs on softwood lumber that have cost exporters $5
billion. He also wants to ease pending rules that would require
passports to enter the U.S. from Canada beginning Jan. 1.

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