Mexico Has Muted Reaction to Immigration Proposal

The new immigration compromise plan developed by the White House and the Senate is getting a fairly muted response in Mexico so far. The Mexican government, which has pushed for immigration rules changes for years, has a cautious reaction to the plan.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The new immigration plan in Congress is getting a fairly muted response in Mexico so far.

As NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, Mexico has been pushing for immigration reform for years with little success, that is, until now.

LOURDES GARCIA: The Mexican Foreign Ministry sent out a brief statement with bullet points calling the latest immigration plan a positive step. The Mexican government, the statement went on to say, hopes that all the actors in the debate north of the border act with objectivity, maturity and common sense.

It was hardly a ringing endorsement. President Felipe Calderon has stayed silent on the issue so far. U.S.-Mexican relations expert Rafael Fernandez de Castro tells NPR that Mexico is reacting with caution for a reason. He says there is, quote, "disbelief" in Mexico because for many years, there's been talk about migration changes and nothing has happened.

That attitude was reflected in the main conservative daily Reforma, whose front-page story was sarcastically headlined, "Another Immigration Plan Has Launched." Still, many Mexicans are hoping that this time, there can be a deal.

An immigration accord that offers a path to legalization for the millions of undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. is one of the priorities of the government here. Mexico relies on the billions of dollars in remittances the money sent home by migrants to boost its economy.

But there is concern here about the emphasis on giving eventual preference to Mexican migrants with education. Fernandez de Castro says that many Mexicans filled jobs that are lower skilled in the U.S. And the fear is that migrants who are still living in Mexico and are interested in an expansion of the guest worker program could be shut out from working temporarily in the U.S. The hope here is that any final agreement would allow more people to cross back and forth legally, maybe work a few months and then return back to Mexico to build homes and businesses. The Senate plan is a compromise and one that Mexico is still deciding if it likes.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.

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