Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mexico President Wants Freer Borders Safer, Legal Passage a Goal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mexico President Wants Freer Borders Safer, Legal Passage a Goal

Article excerpt

MEXICO CITY -- For Fernando Salguero, crossing illegally into the United States was a way of life. During the winter, he harvested fruit in California, making enough money to buy seeds and supplies to plant corn during the summer in Mexico.

As sneaking into the United States became harder, he hired a smuggler to take him across. Eventually, he paid with his life, dying along with other illegal immigrants hiding in the hot, stuffy container of a water truck traveling through the desert to the United States.

With Mexico struggling to employ the country's labor surplus and those who can't find jobs taking desperate measures to travel to the United States, Mexico's new president-elect, Vicente Fox, has proposed opening the border between the two countries in an effort to make cross-border movement of workers safe and legal.

While some argue the measure is long overdue, it still faces possibly insurmountable hurdles with workers and businesses in both countries -- and the U.S. government.

"Mexico needs to have industries for the people who migrate," said Abel Perez, who has seen most of his family move to the United States while he has tried to make a living in Mexico City. "Mexican people are really exploited in the United States."

Salguero's sister, Maria Luisa, agrees, saying she prefers to stay in Mexico with her three children. But she also believes her brother -- who died at the age of 40, leaving his wife and six young children -- should have had the right to travel to the United States safely.

"They didn't know they were going to suffer," she said of the 11 people who died with her brother in July 1998. "It looks like the smuggler put them in a truck, and locked them in. By the time he realized what had happened, they were already dead."

Dozens of immigrants die crossing the border each year, especially in the summer heat. Fox -- the former governor of Guanajuato state, which has one of the highest rates of migration north -- argues that his plan will eliminate migration as well as the gap between Mexican and U.S. salaries.

"The challenge for the United States and Mexico is to close that brutal difference between the income of a worker on the Mexican side who makes $5 a day and the $60 that he makes on the American side doing the same job," he said. …

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