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Vicente Fox

Mexico’s former leader: Immigration reform would strengthen economy

PEORIA – Action by Congress on comprehensive immigration reform would benefit the economies of Arizona, the U.S. and Mexico, former Mexican President Vicente Fox said Thursday.

And presidential elections in the U.S. and Mexico offer a fresh chance to address difficult issues and forge stronger ties between the countries, Fox said at a news conference before a speech here.

“Here’s a great opportunity for two presidents, for two new leaders, to set the path, but it has to be based on humanism, on compassion, on love, on friendship, on neighborhood and on partnership that we have together,” he said.

Fox, who served as Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, was in Peoria to discuss strengthening economic ties between Mexico and the U.S. as part of the city’s Hispanic Heritage Month events.

Arizona exports more than $5 billion in goods and services to Mexico annually, supporting 111,000 jobs in the state, according to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Fox said Mexicans living in the U.S. make an enormous contribution to this nation’s productivity and competitiveness. Immigration policy should reflect that, he said.

“I’m not for open borders, but I am for the use of our talent, our wisdom, our intelligence to come out with a solution,” Fox said.

He said inaction by the federal government has led Arizona and other states to enact tough laws on illegal immigration.

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“The real solution is in the U.S. Congress,” he said.

Fox pointed to legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., as a plan that could have worked. That bill, introduced in 2005, never made it out of the Senate.

“The solution is right there, but it’s been sitting in the U.S. Congress and nobody has dared to take the issue, discuss it, come with a framework, come with a solution to this,” he said.

But that delay shouldn’t stop state political and business leaders from finding ways to maximize economic relationships, he said.

“In the meantime, it’s of human intelligence to sit down, put aside xenophobia, put aside all our complaints that we might have, and sit down and discuss the differences,” Fox said.

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AJ Vicens/Cronkite News Service

Vicente Fox, who served as president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, speaks with reporters Thursday, Sept. 13. 2012, during a visit to Peoria. Fox said action by Congress on comprehensive immigration reform would benefit the economies of Arizona, the U.S. and Mexico.