Mexico Most Important Country to U.S.

The relationship between Mexico and the United States is “infinitely complex,” according to Jeffrey Davidow, U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

The relationship is so complex, he said, that Mexico is the most important country to the United States.

Davidow spoke about the changing relationship between the United States and Mexico in an address at the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Earlier this year, when President Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox, Bush said the same thing.

Right now, it may seem that countries in central Asia are more important to the United States than Mexico, but it is not true, Davidow said.

He described the relationship between the United States and Mexico as intermestic?both domestic and international.

International because it involves multiple countries, and domestic because of the large number of Mexican Americans?legal and illegal?immigrants in the United States.

Of the 30 million foreign-born people living in the United States, nearly 10 million of them are from Mexico. Many of those immigrants have become citizens while others enter the country stay, and work, illegally.

Mexicans leave home in hope of building a better life here. The desire to better their economic situation makes them risk their lives trying to cross the border. More than 400 Mexicans die annually attempting to pass through the mountains and reach the United States. They die from starvation and dehydration and other dangers in the mountains of north-eastern Mexico, Davidow said.

“There are not a lot of Americans willing to risk their lives and walk 500 miles to find a job,” Davidow said.

In the 1980s, border control at and around main entry points tightened. The added security forced those seeking to sneak across the lines out to more primitive areas.

But when security tightened around check points, immigration control inside the country slackened.

“Once the immigrants get in, they are pretty much guaranteed a job,” Davidow said.

Americans have two different opinions of these immigrants.

Many Americans feel closely related to them, because, within a few generations, their own relatives immigrated here. Others think immigrants take jobs away from Americans and overpopulate their children’s classrooms, he said.

But education isn’t necessarily the largest impetus bringing immigrants to the United States. Immigrant children are guaranteed public education through 12th grade. However, for the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from high school, a diploma equals a dead end.

Because their parents are not considered citizens of the state, the student must pay foreign tuition rates to go to college. This makes college unaffordable to nearly all immigrant families.

California recently passed legislation allowing such students an exception to their tuition payment status. If they prove they have lived in the state for the past three years, they are given resident tuition status.

U President Bernie Machen is trying to get a similar bill passed in Utah. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Salt Lake, and Rep. David Ure, R-Summit, are co-sponsoring the bill.

During a luncheon with Davidow, Machen called the practice of charging illegal immigrants foreign tuition rates “intolerable.”

He said he hopes the state will pass the bill and remains optimistic that it will.

Davidow worked previously as Ambassador to Zambia and Venezuela. From 1996 to 1998, he served as assistant secretary of state for Inter American Affairs. He also worked at U.S. embassies in Guatemala, Chile and Venezuela.

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