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Govs call for immigration reform

The Associated Press

Those who lead U.S. and Mexican border states want it made a top priority.

The Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. – Governors of U.S. and Mexican border states recommend that immigration reform become a top priority for their federal governments, and they say the Bush administration didn’t go far enough in a new policy for short-term visits by Mexicans to the United States.

In wrapping up a two-day session of the Border Governors’ Conference yesterday, the chief executives commended the administration for allowing Mexicans a 30-day U.S. stay with a so-called laser visa rather than a three-day limit.

However, the governors said the 30-day stay should be lengthened.

“We believe it is unfair for the United States to allow Canadian visitors a six-month stay while limiting Mexican visitors with a laser visa to only 30 days,” the governors said in a resolution. “This disparity is more than symbolic. It negatively impacts the economies of the states on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

The so-called laser visa is an identification card that contains an individual’s photo and other electronic information. Mexicans must clear a criminal background check to get the card and must remain close to the border after entering the United States.

Coahuila Gov. Enrique Martinez, who will serve as chairman of the conference next year, acknowledged that it may take time for changes in the short-term visitor program.

But he said, “I think Mexicans should have similar treatment that the Canadians have.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the 30-day limit was “not the parity that I was seeking” but he described the administration’s policy change as a “positive step in the right direction.”

Governors from four U.S. states attended the meeting along with leaders of six Mexican states.

On immigration, the governors agreed only on the need for the U.S. and Mexican governments to deal with the subject quickly.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said there wasn’t time for the governors to reach agreement on specific policy recommendations.

“There was an overall sense that both federal governments need to take it off the back burner and put it on the front burner,” Napolitano said of immigration reform.

According to the governors, progress on immigration changes stalled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. The challenge, the governors said, is balancing the demands of increased border security while maintaining cross-border trade and immigration.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano were among 10 border governors from the U.S. and Mexico who called for fast action from the feds on immigration.

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