Mexico's former leader Fox pleads for international partnership in BVU visit
"The wall is terrible - I can't think of anything worse," former President of Mexico Vincente Fox said when asked about the border wall being constructed between his nation and the U.S.
"We should be building bridges instead of walls. Bridges of peace, bridges of trade, bridges of love. "
Fox is hoping to spread a "message of hope" during his appearances in Storm Lake as part of the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series hosted by Buena Vista University.
"The China Great Wall didn't keep their enemies out, the Berlin Wall didn't keep out freedom and this wall will not work."
The United States is the nation that taught the world about freedom, and now it is backing away from its melting pot ideals, he said during a press conference Friday afternoon, gesturing emotionally with widespread arms as he spoke.
He hopes that the university will be a place to drive his message home. "Education knows no borders," Fox said.
The former president, who left office in 2000 due to a term limit, has written a new book, "Revolution of Hope", which also expresses his desire for neighborly relations between the U.S. and Mexico.
There is no stopping immigration from Mexico to places like Storm Lake, he suggests.
Hunger for a better life and the spirit to pursue it continues to drive the Mexican exodus.
"They come here because they are hired here," he said. "And they are badly needed."
Labor jobs pay six times or more what workers could hope for in Mexico, where many still earn only about $1 an hour, according to Fox.
Too often, fear is guiding the U.S. decisions on immigration, he added.
The result is aggressive, often violent action taken by local authorities, especially in the border region, against Mexicans seeking to enter the U.S. "I don't think it is right for neighbors, partners and friends," he said. "I think we can do better than build walls."
With evident frustration, he noted the irony that the wall being built to keep Mexican immigrants out is often being constructed by the hands of Mexican immigrant laborers.
He warned that the waves of Mexican labor keeping U.S. factories and fields productive may soon be slowing dramatically. Families in Mexico today are averaging four persons, he said - compared to the 10 that was common when he was growing up.
Fox, who was at times criticized in his own country for trying to work cooperatively with U.S. leaders, stopped short of blaming the Bush Administration for social worries.
When asked if he felt betrayed by Bush, he said he was convinced that Bush "did his best," and said that the two countries had been on the verge of forming an important progressive pact in meetings just days before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. That "terrible day" changed everything when it came to U.S. foreign relations, according to Fox.
"There is the misconception that immigrants are terrorist and that is not true," Fox said.
The former president also made a plea for international peace in his evening lecture.
"America does not have enough armies... to be able to intervene in every country. This is where I disagree with President Bush. We need to find better solutions" to conflict in places like Afghanistan, Iran and Iran, Fox told the crowd.
During the student panels with Fox Friday, Tara Runghee asked the former Mexican President for his reaction to a quote by Republican President candidate Tom Tancredo on his campaign web site. "Illegal aliens threaten our economy and undermine our culture... as President, I will secure our borders so illegal aliens do not come, and I will eliminate benefits and job prospects so they do not stay."
"He should not have a Spanish name," Fox said of Tancredo.
"We need to work on a guest worker program similar to what Mexico has with Canada. The people go up for 6 or 9 months, are sheltered then flown back home. No one wants to leave their country. Trust me, they would much rather be closer to family and friends enjoying tortillas."
Fox adds that he has not been in favor of open borders, but pushes programs that can help people find jobs or become legal American Nationals.
"I'm not for open borders or illegal immigration, but we need to work together," Fox said.
"Mexico has caught over 250,000 illegal aliens from other Latin countries who were coming into Mexico to work or stopping on their way to America," Fox said. "We have sheltered them and sent them back as well, which we all need to do."
Fox noted that Mexico's population rise has slowed from the 3 percent 15 years ago to under 1 percent today.
"The population of Mexico has doubled three times during the 20th Century," Fox said. "Now we are under one percent and things are getting better for Mexico."
Fox has been touring across the country speaking about his book and other issues facing both Mexico and the U.S. He is enthisastic about the response he sees from Americans, and says he thinks people should look to God ultimately for guidance.
"The day of my inauguration I was criticized for stopping at the Basilica on my way to the Congress," Fox said.
"I went to mass and after I came out I drove to the other side of the city to the congress but stopped and had breakfast with 8-9 year-old children who are already using drugs. I was criticized again. I started out saying that I'm dedicating my next six years to my children and all the children of Mexico and I was told I was too informal. But sometimes we need to let our hearts lead and accept guidance from God and that is what what will make this a better world."
Working toward that goal, he said, "is how I will spend the rest of my days."