SALT LAKE CITY - Mexican President Vicente Fox arrived in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, the first stop on a three-day, three-state tour focused on immigration and trade policy.
Fox also visits Washington state and California this week as the U.S. Senate considers legislation to strengthen border security, authorize new guest-worker programs and give an eventual chance at citizenship to most of the estimated 12 million people already living illegally in the United States.
Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman and first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman met Fox at Salt Lake City International Airport. Fox was scheduled to speak to about 500 business and civic leaders at a luncheon Tuesday. Later in the day, he was to meet with Mexican immigrants at the Utah Cultural Center, followed by an official dinner at the governor's mansion.
Utah, like many states, is divided on immigration. While Utah's largest minority population is Hispanic, there also is growing frustration about the wave of illegal immigrants entering the state.
Jorge Fierro, a Mexican citizen who has lived in Utah since 1986, hopes Fox addresses how he and future leaders can improve the lives of Mexicans. Fierro, who is catering a speaking engagement Fox is scheduled to make at Rico's Market on Wednesday, opened his first bean stand in 1997 and now sells Mexican food products in supermarkets throughout Utah.
"This is going to boost our morale now that our brothers and sisters are facing uncertainty in their future," Fierro said.
The Minuteman Project, which opposes illegal immigration, is planning protests at the Capitol, where Fox is scheduled to address a special session of the state Legislature on Wednesday.
"I'd like to see Vicente Fox tell his people to respect the law and come here legally," said Alex Segura, founder of the Utah Minuteman Project.
Fox will have a private meeting with Huntsman on Wednesday. Huntsman supports President George W. Bush's plan to send as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border and says it is important for Fox to see firsthand the frustrations Western states feel when it comes to illegal immigrants burdening the health care and prison systems.
Fox also is expected to meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The majority of Utah residents are Mormon, as is most of the Legislature and Huntsman. The Mormon church also has a strong presence in Mexico, where in 2004 membership exceeded 1 million.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fox leaves Utah for Washington state, where he will visit farmworker country in the Yakima Valley before moving on to Seattle.
On Thursday, Fox is scheduled to address a joint session of the California Legislature and meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It will be Schwarzenegger's first meeting with Fox since he became governor in 2003. Fox also is expected to meet in Los Angeles with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who last year became the city's first Hispanic mayor in more than a century.