Mexican President Vicente Fox said he will continue to fight for better treatment of migrant workers who come to the United States during a speech Tuesday in downtown Phoenix.
As Fox laid out his plans for a more open border between the two countries to about 3,000 cheering fans inside Phoenix Civic Plaza, a small group of protesters outside called for passage of a statewide initiative to restrict the ability of illegal immigrants to tap into government services.
Mexicans have a "human solidarity" to their fellow countrymen living in the United States, Fox said during the afternoon event that capped a daylong series of appearances in the Valley. The Mexican president also is to meet with top New Mexico and Texas officials.
While in Arizona, Fox advocated expansion of a guest worker program to ease the flow of migrant workers from Mexico to the United States.
He decried the increasing number of Mexican immigrants who have died trying to cross the border into Arizona to find work, despite efforts to curb the dangerous journeys by authorities on both sides of the border. About 150 migrants have died this year crossing the border through the Arizona desert.
"It pains us the increase in the (number) of immigrants who lose their lives in the desert of Arizona," Fox said.
The people of Mexico feel "solidarity for the families that have suffered in this path going toward the United States," Fox said.
He will "work without rest to assure, not just good treatment and dignity to those who are here, but to ensure the respect to their human rights and to their rights as workers," he said.
Though he did not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants into the United States, Fox said he is working to reduce the cost of transferring money they earn here to their families living in Mexico. He also said among his goals is ensuring Mexican workers in the United States have equal access to American schools and universities.
As Fox pushed for a more open border from inside Civic Plaza, about 25 backers of an initiative drive to curb statepaid benefits to illegal immigrants protested outside. The effort being pushed by the group Protect Arizona Now would put a measure on the 2004 general election ballot to require photo identification to vote and proof of legal residency to obtain state and local government services.
Other protesters shared similar concerns. Chandler resident Rob Sanchez said he opposed any plans to launch a new guest worker program, such as one proposed by U.S. Sen. John McCain and Reps. Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, all Arizona Republicans. Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who played host to Fox throughout the day, also has called for expansion of the program, which would allow immigrant workers to enter the United States legally, then re turn to their native countries.
Sanchez said he is unable to find work as a software engineer because American companies already hire too many immigrants with valid visas. A guest worker program would flood the labor market, displacing more U.S. workers and driving wages down, he said.
"They all are totally without conscience when it comes to (American) workers," Sanchez said of U.S. politicians pushing the program.