Mexican President Vicente Fox told hundreds of farm workers here that neither his country nor the United States can go it alone in trying to fix immigration problems.
"It's clear the purpose is to reach an agreement that can give security, that can give legality, that can give flow to the migrant people," Fox said in Spanish on Wednesday, his second day of a four-day visit to the western U.S. "I think we are closer to the end of this route. This is a shared responsibility, the immigration reform."
Fox's speech came on the same day the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to limit debate on election-year immigration legislation. That cleared 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.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire specifically pressed Fox to visit the eastern part of her state, where thousands of Hispanic workers, many of them illegal immigrants, labor in agriculture and comprise as much as 90 percent of the population in some communities. Some Washington farmers are worried that a border crackdown could create a shortage of workers.
In Yakima, Fox toured a 700-acre (280-hectare) cherry, apple and pear orchard and an apple-packing warehouse owned by Rene and Carmen Garcia. Their operation, G&G Orchards, is believed to be the only Hispanic-owned apple warehouse in Washington state.
"So far, we're looking for a bigger crop this year, and I'm getting nervous," Rene Garcia said. "We're not seeing the people circulating around looking for jobs."
Six busloads of farm workers, farm owners and others welcomed Fox.
Enrique Diaz, 67, a farmworker originally from Colima, Mexico, has lived in the central Washington city of Pasco for about 30 years. He said he came here to make a better living and has been a citizen since 1976.
Diaz said he hopes the main message Fox walks away with is immigrants' need for amnesty, reports the AP.
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