MEXICO CITY – Mexico presidential candidate Felipe Calderón met last week with a visiting U.S. Hispanic mission. Calderón focused on the need to increase North American collaboration and spoke out against the Sensenbrenner bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in December that proposed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The issue of immigration is expected to begin heating up in the Senate this month, with others bills under consideration.

“The tension that is being generated on both sides of the border with the issue of the wall is producing the great risk of pulling us apart,” said the conservative party candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional. “We have to strengthen our ties, not break them,” he said, adding, “We need creative and deep solutions to the immigration problem.”

Calderón proposed creating a fund through the North American Free Trade Agreement bank to help regions in Mexico that send high numbers of migrants to the United States, “instead of financing infrastructure at the border.” He expressed confidence that such an approach could dramatically reduce Mexican migration to the north.

Candidates of Mexico’s two other major political parties – the Partido Revolucionario Institucional and Partido de la Revolución Democrática – were invited to participate but failed to attend. Mexico’s elections will be held in July to choose a successor to Vicente Fox who completes his six-year term as Mexico’s first opposition party president, following 70 years of Institutional Revolutionary Party rule.

Members of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and several local Latino chambers from across the United States paid their three-day visit to Mexico City to strengthen U.S.-Mexico business ties and foster stronger communications between the neighboring countries.

The trade mission included meetings with other prominent Mexican leaders, including finance minister Francisco Gil Díaz, and governors of five states. The U.S. Hispanic chamber represents 215 local chambers and more than 2 million Latino business owners.

“We’ve had many visits from Mexican corporations that are interested in doing business with the United States, and we have a lot of our members who have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of gratitude by the Mexican community here as we all want to do business together,” USHCC President Michael Barrera told Hispanic Link News Service.

“The wall sends a bad message as far as the relationship between Mexico and the United States,” José Lopez, a USHCC board member from El Paso, Texas, told Hispanic Link.

Agreeing with candidate Calderón, López concluded, “Mexican nationals have helped the United States grow by providing the employees that do the jobs that other people don’t want to do. You have to strengthen the economy of Mexico. You have to give the Mexican nationals a reason to stay instead of going to the United States. We all have to work toward that.”

(Alejandro Meneses Miyashita is editor of HLWR in Washington, D.C. He may be contacted by e-mail at Alex@hispaniclink.org.)

(c) 2006 Hispanic Link News Service

Other visiting U.S. Hispanic leaders included members of Hispanic chambers of commerce from five other cities in Texas, and from Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Utah. Paula Mendoza, chairwoman of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, told Hispanic Link, “It’s very important for Mexico to know that we’re serious about doing business in Mexico.”

(Hispanic Link Weekly Report editor Alex Meneses Miyashita is on assignment in Mexico City. He may be reached by e-mail at alex@hispaniclink.org.)

(c) 2006. Hispanic Link News Service

Alex Meneses Miyashita