May 26, 2006

Fox praises Mexican immigrants

By Adam Tanner

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Mexican President
Vicente Fox praised Mexican immigrants for pushing Washington
on immigration reform on Friday, the last day of a U.S. trip
during which he drew Republican barbs over the issue.

"We know about their contributions to this economy and to
this country. We know about their loyalty to those who they
work for," Fox said in a speech.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate backed an immigration bill
that would give millions of illegal immigrants a chance to
become American citizens.

"They fought for it. They earned what they got yesterday,"
Fox told a California Chamber of Commerce audience.

The contentious issue still faces an uncertain outcome in
the U.S. House of Representatives. which has passed a very
different bill that calls for tough border security and
enforcement measures.

The fractious debate in the U.S. Congress was reflected in
miniature in the reaction to Fox's visit on Thursday to the
California capital of Sacramento.

A few Republican lawmakers skipped his address to a joint
session of legislature to protest Mexico's response to the flow
of illegal immigrants into the United States.

"I'm going to refuse to listen to what he has to say
today," said Republican Assemblywoman Sharon Runner. "His
country is not helping."

Some Republicans attended but wore lapel pins reading "No
Mas!" -- a message to Fox to do more to control their

"Mexico cannot continue to ignore the crisis of illegal
immigration into the United States," Republican State Senator
Dave Cox said. "I do not believe it fosters a productive
discussion when President Fox has stereotyped efforts to
control our borders as 'discriminatory,' and called those who
oppose illegal immigration 'xenophobic."'

Democratic lawmaker Mark Leno mocked the Republican
protests. "You'd think that Fidel Castro was visiting," he said
of the Communist Cuban leader. "It's so insulting."