President Vicente Fox (search) came under criticism Saturday after saying Mexicans were willing to take jobs "that not even blacks want to do in the United States."
Fox's remark Friday came a day after Mexico (search) announced it would formally protest recent U.S. immigration reforms, including the decision to extend walls along the border and make it harder for illegal migrants to get driver's licenses.
"There's no doubt that the Mexican men and women — full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work — are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States," Fox told a meeting of the Texas-Mexico Frozen Food Council in the western city of Puerto Vallarta (search) on Friday.
The Mexican newspaper Milenio cited "Vicente Fox's racist comment" in a small front-page headline, while the newspaper Reforma called the president's words "controversial."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told a cable news network the comments were "unwitting, unnecessary and inappropriate."
He said the president "should not confuse the need for sound legal immigration policy between the two countries, which is important, and the border disputes between the two countries, with a spurious comparison."
Mexico's foreign relations secretary, Luis Derbez, said Fox was not motivated by racism but was emphasizing that "Mexican migrants are making great contributions in the United States and that their role is a positive role."