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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > August

Remarks with Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mexican Secretary Jorge Castaneda, and Mexican Interior Minister Santiago Creel

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Remarks after their Meeting
Washington, DC
August 9, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Secretary Castenada and Secretary Creel and Attorney General Ashcroft and I just finished a very productive meeting where we talked about a number of issues but focused most of our attention on migration issues in response to the charge given to us by President Bush and President Fox some months ago to make this a high priority.

It was a very good meeting and we began to flesh out some of the details of the ideas we have been looking at over the last several months. And we focused on some of the principles that we are going to be following with respect to dealing with these migration issues. We want to make sure that we have a humane approach to the solution of the migration challenge. We want to make sure that migration to the United States from Mexico is safe, legal, orderly and dignified. We want to make sure that the systems we put in place are humane, that they are family friendly, and they respect the enormously valuable role that Mexican immigrants continue to play in helping us in building our nation and the contribution they make to Mexico when they return to their country and when they send remittances back to their country.

We want to make sure that the immigration system, at the same time, does not disadvantage American workers. We want to ensure an adequate labor supply for US employers when American workers are not available. We want a system that focuses on fairness. The immigration system must be fair. And our most important obligation is to those who follow the rules and abide by the law. The only path must be the legal path.

We are joining in Mexico in a shared commitment. One of the most important features of our work is that we see this as shared responsibility. The United States and Mexico, working together to put in place this orderly, legal, humane, family-friendly system. We want to make sure that all the approaches we undertake are flexible and benefit both nations.

We got into some specifics with respect to a temporary worker program that we will be pursuing in greater detail in the months ahead. We are in no hurry. We have to do this right. We have to do this in a careful way, a way that will be seen as fair and equitable by both nations, by the people of both nations.

We want to work on options for a temporary workers program that is grounded in reality and the needs of our economy, one that doesn't hurt US workers. And the program will rest on a carefully worked out partnership between the sending and receiving countries, one that recognizes also the contributions that undocumented Mexicans are making in the United States, and that brings together willing workers and willing employers.

This is an issue that will require the closest consultation between our two nations and, of course, here in the United States, the closest consultation between the Administration and the Congress and other interested groups.

I would like to thank the two secretaries for their contribution to our meetings today. I think we are discharging the task that was given to us by our presidents. And let me say at this time how much we are all looking forward to President Fox visiting next month, President Bush's first state visit, which is evidence, I think, of the strength of our relationship and the importance that President Bush attaches to that relationship.

Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY CASTANEDA: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Very briefly. (In Spanish.)

MR. ASHCROFT: I'm delighted to have had this opportunity of sharing in this responsibility that flows from the unique cooperation established when President Bush and President Fox met early in the year and began what has become a most productive and fruitful improvement in the relationships between the United States and Mexico.

I have met over and over again with my counterparts to emphasize the opportunity for improved border safety, and we are making great progress. We have improved our ability to curtail illegal drug traffic with much improved law enforcement cooperation. Many of the objectives that we have for the right kind of mature relationship between our two sovereign nations are being met successfully.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity today of discussing a very broad range of issues in this rather important yet complex negotiation, and I think progress is being made and will continue to be made. And I am grateful for this charge, which comes from these two presidents, who have decided to lead our nations to higher levels of cooperation that will be beneficial to the people in both of our nations.

MR. CREEL: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the Middle East, we have seen the President's statement. Do you -- does the Administration-- support sanctions against the PLO, la McConnell-Feinstein legislation to bring --

SECRETARY POWELL: We haven't taken a position on that. Our concentration today is on encouraging both sides to act with restraint. This kind of violence gets us nowhere. We have a way out of this crisis. It's called the Mitchell Plan, and we can get into the Mitchell Plan if we can get the violence down.

So I am pleased that Chairman Arafat condemned the violence. Now, he has to find those responsible and bring them to justice, and I hope that both sides will act with restraint. This is a very dangerous situation, and it is not going to be solved, except by the parties in the region.

We are doing everything we can. I spoke to Chairman Arafat this morning. I have a call in to Prime Minister Sharon. I have talked to Secretary General Annan and Foreign Minister Louis Michel of Belgium, the EU presidency, and I have talked to Mr. Solana.

So we are trying to mobilize the international community to give that message once again that the solution to the problem exists with the parties in the region, and they both have to do everything they can to reduce the violence, reduce the provocations and the counter-response to provocations. Otherwise, we are just going to continue to find a more difficult situation facing us tomorrow and the day after.

QUESTION: Is there any conceivable provocation -- can I follow up, please?

QUESTION: Did anyone encourage you to come to the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I will go anywhere where it make some sense to go, if there is something to do. But at this point, everybody knows what has to be done. The violence has to be brought done, and we have been delivering that message consistently. There isn't a day that goes by that I am not in contact with somebody in the region, or somebody with a concern about this.

And so there is no question about where we stand. There is no question about our engagement. But we can't take our eye off the ball and off the problem. The problem is in the region and the two sides have to get the violence down. Once they do that, and get into the Mitchell Report implementation, there are ways for the United States to be of additional help with respect to security. But it begins with the two parties in the region, and no one else.

Thank you.

Released on August 9, 2001

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