Mexican president steps up attacks on U.S. border plans

President Vicente Fox likened a U.S. plan to build 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) of fence along its border with Mexico to the Berlin wall, saying it was a hypocritical move coming from a nation of immigrants. Speaking at an event for migrants in his home state of Guanajuato, Fox said on Sunday that barriers between nations belonged in the past and, like the Berlin wall in 1989, were torn down by people striving for liberty and democracy.

"This wall is shameful," Fox said. "It's not possible that in the 21st century we're building walls between two nations that are neighbors, between two nations that are brothers, between two nations that are partners." On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an immigration enforcement bill that includes a proposal to fence off parts of the 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The bill also enlists soldiers and local police to stop people sneaking over the border and obliges employers to check the legal status of their workers. Fox said the measures were hypocritical for a country of immigrants.

"When we look at their roots, the immense majority of (Americans) are migrants, migrants that have arrived from all over the world," he said.

Since he came into power in 2000, Fox has lobbied the U.S. government to allow more Mexicans to work legally in the United States. Nearly two years ago, U.S. President George W. Bush proposed a new guest worker program in which temporary, three-year work visas would be issued.

However, lawmakers did not include the guest worker program in the immigration reform bill they passed Friday. Some Mexicans see the bill as evidence of the failure of Fox's effort.

"The (Mexican) federal government has failed to achieve a migratory accord between the United States and Mexico," the National Farmers Confederation, which represents small farmers and is affiliated with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, said in a statement. The confederation warned that a depression in Mexico's countryside, which it blames on imports of U.S. farm goods, will cause an increase in emigration next year, reports the AP. I.L.

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