MEXICO CITY – The Mexican government slammed the U.S. Congress for approving an immigration bill that would tighten border controls and make it harder for undocumented immigrants to get jobs.
The House of Representatives voted 239-182 in favor of measures that would enlist military and local law enforcement to help stop illegal entrants and require employers to verify the legal status of their workers.
The House also authorized the building of a fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, but did not include any new temporary work program for migrants, something Mexico insists is needed.
"The government of Mexico ... believes that a reform which only considers security measures will not contribute to a better, more integral bilateral management of migration issues," the Foreign Relations department said in a statement.
"The U.S. executive branch publicly expressed its commitment to an integral immigration reform, with a new program for temporary workers," the statement continued. "The Mexican government will redouble its efforts to achieve this shared goal."
President Bush urged Congress almost two years ago to enact a guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country temporarily to fill jobs unwanted by Americans.
House leaders wouldn't allow a vote on a volatile proposal to deny citizenship to babies born in the United States to illegal immigrants.
But the House did approve building 700 miles of fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, giving priority for construction in Laredo, Texas. The city is across the border from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where warring drug cartels have been blamed for more than 140 killings this year.
Mexico argues existing barriers built along heavily crossed sections of the border have not stopped migrants from crossing, rather have pushed them through more desolate, dangerous areas.
A record number of more than 415 people died crossing the border illegally in 2005, according to statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That compares to the previous record of 383 deaths in 2000.
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission described the U.S. measure as "part of a tendency to criminalize migration with a wall that calls to mind the Berlin Wall."
As well as building a wall, the bill would require the Defense and Homeland Security departments to design a plan to use military technology to stop illegal crossings and require all employers in the country, more than 7 million, to check the legal status of workers.
U.S. authorities estimate there are about 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States, about half of whom are Mexican.