George W. Bush photo

Interview With Television Azteca

March 20, 2002

Mexico-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much for being on Television Azteca. It's a pleasure and an honor, sir, to have you. Let me first ask you, in Monterrey there are many people demonstrating against the meeting, not only of Mexico and the United States but in general of this world meeting. And they say that this will be an occasion to have Mexico subordinated to the United States. What do you tell these people?

The President. Mexico es a grand amigo de los Estados Unidos, and we're equal partners. It's very important for people in our hemisphere to know that we've got a unique relationship with Mexico and a very positive relationship. We've got a lot of trade that goes on on a daily basis. We've got a lot of contact with Mexico. And my attitude is, if Mexico succeeds, that is good for the United States. A strong Mexico, an equal partner is very good for the people of our country.

Everywhere I go, there's protesters, so I don't worry about protesters. What I worry about is to make sure that we have good relations with Mexico. It's an important part of my foreign policy. This will be my second trip to Mexico since I've been the President, in a year's time. That should send a clear signal of the importance of the relationship.

Q. And this is not an occasion to subordinate anybody or anything?

The President. No, of course not. There's no subordination. This is an excuse for people who want to disrupt a positive relationship. And it's important for us to have a positive relationship with Mexico, and relations with Mexico have never been better.

Vicente Fox is my friend. I can have very good dialog with him. He's a strong, strong proponent of what's good for Mexico. He speaks his mind, as he should. And there are some areas where we agree and some areas where we don't agree, but we always agreed to have good relationships.


Q. Mr. President, one of the issues that you're going to be discussing with President Fox is the one related to immigration.

The President. Yes.

Q. And I talked to a lot of people— community leaders, immigration attorneys—and they tell me that 245(i) only helps a very small percentage of people, and that, in reality, something has to be decided about this guestworker program initiative, the illegalization of all those Mexicans who are still here and working every day, and they haven't been able to get their residency—those kinds of things. But they say that as long as you push and you put your political capital on this, something can be done. Otherwise, it won't. My question is, are you willing to put that political capital on——

The President. Well, I've always been one who understands that we need to make sure that a willing employer and a willing employee can come together in a legal way. That's been my position for a long period of time. 245(i) is just the beginning of a lot of discussions; 245(i) is a compassionate approach to helping reform immigration. And so the issue is broader than 245(i), as far as I'm concerned, and it's going to take a lot of work, however.

And it's very important for our Mexican friends to understand that as a result of the attacks on America, the American people are focused on terror and focused on making sure people don't come in the country to hurt us. I, of course, reminded people that most people from Mexico that come into the country come to help, not to hurt. So we've got a lot of work to do.

But I haven't changed my mind; I think it's important. The first step is to see if we can get 245(i) out of the United States Senate. And so all those lawyers you've talked to or advocates need to be up working the United States Senate right now to see if they can perform.

Q. Many people feel that this will only happen if you push and you put your political capital there.

The President. That's what I'm doing. I've said, first things first. I'm the President who stood up and said, "Get me 245(i), let's get that done." And the Senate can't move. And so I called upon the Senate again, "Let's see you perform, and let's get all these advocates in Washington, DC, to whom you've spoken up on the Senate floor. Get them up there getting something done."

See, I'm one of these let's-see-if-we-can-get-things-done guys. There's too much talk in Washington and not enough action. And so I've not only talked about immigration reform that makes sense, I'm pushing to get 245(i). Once we get 245(i), we can deal with the next issue. And there's a lot of issues we need to discuss, and I'll discuss them with my friend Vicente Fox.

Antidrug Efforts

Q. And my last question: Benjamin Arellano-Felix, the head of this cartel, suspect in Mexico, was apprehended there. Are you going to ask for extradition—for an extradition of this guy to the United States?

The President. Si, por cierto. Por cierto. He's under indictment here in the United States, and I look forward to working with the Fox Government on extradition. We've had a great—great cooperation on the issue of extradition. As you know, the Government has made some—honored our requests a couple of times, and for that I'm grateful. And yes, we'd like to see him extradited.

And I'm so appreciative of the Mexican authorities arresting this—arresting this man. It's a good signal. And it's a good signal for many Americans to hear it and realize that the Fox Government is getting tough on these narcotraffickers.

Now, let me talk about drugs very quickly. I want the Mexican people to understand that we'll work together—and we are—to stop the flow of drugs. But here in America, we must do a better job of not using las drogas. We've got to do a better job of reducing demand. We have an obligation; we've got an obligation to work closely with our Mexican friends; we've got an obligation at home to convince our young not to use drugs.

And so I want the American people to hear me loud and clear: Drugs will destroy your families, and drugs will destroy life. And we've got to do a better job of promoting that. And so when demand for drugs goes down, which I hope it does— and I think it can with good, focused effort—it will help our Mexican friends deal with a very tough issue.

Thank you, sir.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 10:40 a.m. in the Map Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Vicente Fox of Mexico; and Benjamin Alberto Arellano-Felix, head of the Arellano-Felix Brothers organization drug cartel. He also referred to section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which expired April 30, 2001. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George W. Bush, Interview With Television Azteca Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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