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Published: Friday, 2/2/2007

In Toledo, Mexico's Fox backs guest-worker idea

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mr. Fox was in town to speak last night at the Valentine Theatre to an audience of about 700 attending Toledo After Hours, an annual program sponsored by the Junior League of Toledo.

But his comments came during a luncheon at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center in South Toledo. Mr. Fox was greeted by many leaders from Toledo s Hispanic community during the program.

In comments to the media near the end of the luncheon, Mr. Fox discussed a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) to create an Essential Worker Visa Program for immigrants to perform jobs for up to three years with the ability for extensions. He said the bill was the best plan in the U.S. debate over immigration reform.

[The McCain-Kennedy bill] upholds most of the visionary ideas that will give us the opportunity to solve this [question] of immigrants the right way, Mr. Fox said. It would be a win-win situation.

Mr. Fox described plans for a wall between the U.S.-Mexican border as a version of the former Berlin Wall in Germany and not in keeping with America s ideals.

The only thing I can say is that walls only separate people, Mr. Fox said. Building walls is not up to the democratic spirit of this nation. I think it s useless to build a wall when we can work together to build a future for both of our nations. Today we are partners. Today we are friends. Today we are neighbors, the United States and Mexico.

His comments echoed those made by President Bush when he and the President made a three-hour stop in Toledo on Sept. 6, 2001, during which they spoke at the University of Toledo and visited with Boys and Girls Club members at the Aurora Gonzalez Community and Family Resource Center in South Toledo.

Mr. Bush had been in office less than nine months. The stop in Toledo by the two presidents came on the second day of Mr. Fox s two-day state visit, the first of Mr. Bush s presidency.

I want to remind people, fearful people build walls. Confident people tear them down, Mr. Bush said at UT.

The visit was largely overshadowed by events of less than a week later the attacks of Sept. 11. We all remember with sadness, with pity what happened that day, Mr. Fox said last night.

Mr. Fox, at Toledo After Hours, offered warm regards to Mexicans in the United States, calling them hard-working, decent people that make your life easier and make this economy more competitive.

He said that he and Mr. Bush, at a meeting in Mexico, decided to work for a solution on immigration to the United States that would be just for all and humane and protect human and labor rights.

He recalled that his grandfather moved to the center of Mexico from Cincinnati in search of opportunity, as immigrants do today, wherever they are moving.

How enriching it is for the recipient nation, he said.

Building prosperity, he said, is his American dream because we are all Americans on this continent.

He said that through the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico, the United States, and Canada are building a future of prosperity and have the most successful bloc of nations in the world.

He decried populism and demagoguery in Latin America, which in the end severely affect the poor, he said.

He also extolled the mission of the Junior League, saying that members know self-realization comes from being of service to others a lesson he learned in Jesuit schools, including a year spent as a youth in a Prairie du Chien, Wis., high school. You must commit to building opportunities for others, he said.

Mr. Fox has been out of office since late 2006. But at the Quintero Center, he appeared to still have his politician s instinct as he worked the crowd of about 150, which gave him a standing ovation when he arrived.

With his wife, Marta, at his side, he shook hands, shared hugs, and in the back of the center lifted 5-month-old Jack Moorman into the air and smiled at the toddler.

Young Jack, with his parents, Drew and Jennifer, standing next to Mr. Fox, quietly withstood all the attention for the former president from the cheering crowd.

It was quite a ride for him, said Ms. Moorman, the art director at the Quintero center. It was nice for him to meet such a dignitary. This is something he ll be able to look back on.

Mr. Fox received a glass key to the city from Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and a proclamation from Councilman Mike Craig, among other gifts.

Staff writer Mark Zaborney contributed to this report.

Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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