Mexico's President Vicente Fox apparently realizes that his
migration-policy desires must finally adjust to a post-Sept. 11
The appointment of a new foreign minister last week, following
the resignation of Jorge Castaneda, indicates a new, go-slow
approach to border issues, say experts.
Since joining the Fox administration in 2001, Mr. Castaneda tried
to forge a wide-ranging migration policy with the United States that
would have opened the border to workers, trucks, and trade.
Instead, with the appointment of Luis Ernesto Derbez, finance
minister and former World Bank technocrat, Mexico recognizes that it
has moved down President George W. Bush's list of priorities and
will have to take small steps toward its migration goals instead of
reaching for the whole package.
"Now the need is to push for a migration accord from the bottom
up," says Jorge Santibanez, president of Mexico's Northern Border
College in Tijuana. "We can't hope for too much too soon."
Castaneda, a brilliant academic with a brash personality,
initially won kudos for improving Mexico's stature on the world
stage. Yet his refusal to move slowly on the sensitive migration
deal put off US officials. Analysts say that Castaneda pushed too
hard too early for a full guest-worker program, without taking into
account that many Americans fear an influx of cheap laborers would
rob them of jobs and cause a possible rise in social spending.
Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, who directs the Mexico Project at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, makes
the analogy that Bush would have encountered similar barriers if he
tried to force Mexico to open its energy sector to US investors.
"It was a tactical error to approach the issue the way he did,"
he says. "At the end of the day, it is going to have to be the Bush
administration that does the heavy lifting to win public support for
any immigration accord."
When Mr. Fox took office in 2001, ending the 71-year grip on
power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, officials on
both sides of the Rio Grande hailed a new era in US-Mexico
relations. Mr. Bush made his first trip outside the US to Fox's
family ranch, pronounced the two men "amigos," and promised to
pioneer bilateral accords ranging from free trade and energy sharing
to boosting the war on drugs. Making it easier for Mexicans to
travel north of the border for work, both leaders said, was a
Two years later, however, their once-cozy courtship has turned
into a cold marriage. Fox, for his part, largely stuck to the
bargain, launching a successful war on drug trafficking, curtailing
ties with Mexico's longtime ally Cuba, and talking up plans to open
the country's energy sector to foreign investment, a hugely
sensitive issue here. …