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Security a Top Concern, Fox Says

Border: Immigration reform stalls in wake of 9/11 attacks, according to Mexican president.


TIJUANA — Mexican President Vicente Fox said here Wednesday that heightened security along the U.S.-Mexico border since Sept. 11 has obliterated any chances of easing immigration regulations in 2002.

"Not this year, maybe next," Fox said at the opening session of the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists' 20th annual convention. "We must ensure that our war against terrorism moves forward." At the same time, he said, both nations must work to facilitate the movement of people across the border. More than 1 million cross every day.

Stepped-up security at major crossing points has forced migrants to take perilous routes across the desert. In the last week, at least 14 Mexican immigrants have died in the Arizona desert and more than 100 have had to be rescued.

"Additional steps must be taken to avoid these painful deaths," Fox said.

Earlier Wednesday, at the Grand Hotel Tijuana, Fox and Gov. Gray Davis, who is waging an increasingly aggressive campaign for reelection, said the relationship between the Mexican government and California is continuing to improve.

Mexico is now California's largest trading partner. Over the past four years, trade with Mexico has increased more than $4 billion and created an estimated 50,000 jobs in California.

Davis cited several recent accomplishments, including the sale of 50 megawatts of power from Baja California to the San Diego area, an amount expected to increase to 200 megawatts--enough to serve 200,000 homes--by the end of the year.

The governor noted that Mexicana Airlines will soon inaugurate a flight from Mexico City that will stop at Guadalajara before continuing to Sacramento. And he announced expansion of Blue Shield's Access Baja HMO, which handles health care benefits for 40,000 people who live in Baja California and work in California. Davis said the families of legal workers will now get health care too.

"We are two people with one future, and our future is getting brighter by the day," Davis said.

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