November 10, 2003
Mexican President Vicente Fox visits
Mexican President Vicente Fox wrapped up a three-day, three-state tour of the U.S. with a three-hour visit to the University of Texas at Austin on November 6. Following a private meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, President Fox and his delegation of about a dozen Mexican officials and business leaders made their way to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum. The visit was orchestrated by UT Austin Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Victoria Rodríguez and Mexican Center Director Peter Ward, both professors at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and distinguished Mexicanist scholars with close ties to the Mexican government. The husband-wife team had been anticipating a visit by Fox to the University since his election to the presidency in 2000. This was his first visit to Texas as president.
“We have had a long history of yes-no-yes-no, stop-start preparations,” said Ward, who brought Fox, then governor of Guanajuato, to a Mexican Center conference at UT Austin in 1995. But political circumstances, including Fox’s protest of Texas’ execution of a Mexican citizen in 2002 and a dispute over water resources along the U.S.-Mexico border, stymied subsequent attempts to bring him to the University.
“In essence Fox was eager to come to Texas and eager to come to the University,” said Ward. “I was informed about a month ago that a window had opened and that Fox would be able to include the University in his three-state tour. I was skeptical that we would actually pull it off,” he said.
Despite the brevity of the engagement, Rodríguez and Ward worked closely with the Mexican Consulate to make the most of the three-hour visit, which included a televised address, the signing of a nanotechnology agreement between UT Austin and CONACyT (the Science and Technology Council of Mexico), meetings with UT Austin Mexican students and faculty, and an interview with the editors of Texas leading newspapers. Upon his arrival, Fox was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 invited guests, mainly Mexican nationals, in the LBJ Auditorium. UT Austin President Larry Faulkner outlined the University’s Latin American initiative, highlighting its programs and exchanges with Mexico, and commending the Mexican Center for its efforts in developing them.
Speaking in Spanish, Fox directed his address toward Mexican workers in the U.S., praising them for their hard work and determination and recognizing their financial contributions to both their families and their country as a whole. Equivalent to $14 billion, remittances sent by Mexican workers in the U.S. are greater than revenue generated by petroleum and tourism, he said.
Fox also spoke about the need for new policies in the U.S. that would increase human rights protection for Mexican migrant workers. Formal talks with President George W. Bush on this issue were stalled after the September 11, 2002 terrorist attacks due to increased national security concerns. Fox’s visit to U.S. border states was clearly intended to jumpstart new dialog about his proposed guest-worker program.
“Mexican people in the U.S. are not terrorists. They are honest working people,” Fox said, arguing that a more open immigration system would be safer for all parties. “Day by day we are going to continue demanding your rights.”
A solid first step, he said, would be state government recognition of the consular identification card, so that migrant workers could obtain drivers licenses. The card is already accepted by the federal treasury and most financial institutions.
According to newspaper reports, Fox garnered significant support from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano for this proposal. While little progress was made in his negotiations with Governor Perry, both parties agreed that future talks were in order. Considering Mexico’s deep ties with UT Austin and the warm reception Fox received here, the Mexico Center expects that future visits to Austin will include a stopover at the University.
wraps up Austin trip at UT
Perry make small progress on migration, water issues
ends without agreement
Conference examines financial services for Mexican workers in the U.S. (September 24, 2003)
Mexican Center celebrates Mexican politics and culture throughout September (September 16, 2003)
2003 Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
10 November 2003
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