Mexican President Vicente Fox pledged Thursday to work with the U.S. on immigration reform and said the two countries can set an example for other nations around the globe.
"The 21st century is the century of migration," Fox said in English speaking to the private Rainier Club in downtown Seattle. "Managing migration can be done, and can be done with a purpose and can be done to the betterment of the people involved in it."
As he spoke, Fox and others were awaiting a crucial vote on immigration reform in the U.S. Senate.
Senators voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to limit debate on the immigration legislation, clearing the way for final passage later this week of a bill that calls for tougher border security as well as an eventual chance at citizenship for millions of men and women in this country illegally.
Fox joked at the beginning of his speech about dragging out his remarks so he could get word of the next vote before leaving later in the day for California, where he was to meet Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"I'm nervous about what's going on in the Senate," Fox said.
The speech, part of Fox's three-state swing through the Western United States, followed a breakfast with business leaders and a tour of the Sea Mar Community Health Center in Seattle.
Earlier Thursday, Fox fielded suggestions and complaints from business leaders, assuring them that Mexico will be a valuable part of free trade advancements on the continent.
Fox also tried to smooth worries about intellectual property rights and worker safety in his country.
Mexico wants to be competitive with the U.S. — not a competitor against it, he said. "That's the heart of our conversations with President Bush's administration," Fox said.
In a speech to dinner guests Wednesday night, Fox outlined a five-point position on immigration, saying Mexico does not support undocumented migration and must expand economic growth so that migration is "(no) longer a necessity, but a free will decision."
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, said she and Fox agree on the need for a "comprehensive" solution on immigration. Gregoire's preference includes increased border security, a path to legal residence and a robust guest worker program, crucial to the state's agriculture industry.
Gregoire also praised Fox's commitment to economic partnerships and education, saying Washington was excited to work with Mexico on strengthening relationships between their major shipping ports and schools.
"Our values are the same, our goals are the same," she said. "We believe in the capacity of human beings, and we believe with the right leadership, the right goals and the right direction, there's nothing we can't accomplish."
Fox and Gregoire also met briefly with former President Jimmy Carter, who was at the same Seattle club for a separate event.