For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 5, 2001
U.S., Mexican Cabinet Officials Hold Press Conference
REMARKS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT,
MEXICAN ATTORNEY GENERAL MACEDO DE LA CONCHA,
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION PAIGE,
EPA ADMINISTRATOR WHITMAN,
COMMISSIONER FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SARUKHAN
12:55 P.M. EDT
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: The relationship which the Presidents of the United States and Mexico began, on a high level and on a personal level earlier this year, are bearing fruit in the development of a wide variety of areas of cooperation between Cabinet members and Cabinet-level officials across our government.
In particular, I'm delighted today to be joined by Attorney General Macedo de la Concha of Mexico, with whom we've had a very substantial set of meetings over the past seven months, and with whom our cooperation is significant.
The concept of shared responsibility, which is a concept promoted by Presidents Fox and Bush, is one which is being translated into policy not only on the border, as I have a responsibility through the INS and border patrol, but in our cooperation on law enforcement areas generally, and this idea of shared responsibilities reflected in the cooperation between the Cabinet agencies.
I'm delighted to report that at no time in the history of Mexico has our relationship been stronger and does the cooperation which we have reached been more thorough. Yesterday we signed an agreement relating to sharing seized assets that are confiscated when criminal apprehensions are made. We have previously worked together for items such as making sure that we respect the dignity and humanity of individuals that are involved on our borders, the new BORSTAR teams, the border rescue search and trauma teams that have been created by our border patrol have been the subject of our discussions, as well as the use of non-lethal force on the border, which has been a suggestion by our Mexican friends and which has resulted in better and improved performance in terms of our own efforts.
So I want to say how pleased I am to have the opportunity of being a part of this high level of cooperation, this friendship that is developing, based on trust that results in mutual achievements.
It's my pleasure now to yield the opportunity to speak to the Attorney General of Mexico, Macedo de la Concha.
ATTORNEY GENERAL MACEDO: (Statement made in Spanish.)
SECRETARY PAIGE: We enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Secretary Tamez and to introduce the leadership of our various agencies to continue and expand the discussion around some issues that are very important to both of us.
I think the issue that we discussed most was the issues of migrant education, and seeing how we can cooperate to provide better services to students who may find themselves sometimes enrolled both in American schools and in Mexican schools in the same year. Making sure that our curricular lines are -- and that the record-keeping is good, is going to take a good deal of cooperation from the two groups. We were excited about the opportunity to discuss these solutions.
We had some opportunities to discuss higher education and the exchange of teachers. We have a tremendous bilingual education shortage in the United States, and we feel that we had some opportunities here to find some solutions to that problem.
Technology is going to offer us other opportunities to cooperate. But the key thing about this is, this was not an event, but a relationship that is going to continue over a long period. In the bonding that we achieved, and understanding and commitments that we made to each other, I think is going to serve students well, both in Mexico and the United States.
ADMINISTRATOR WHITMAN: The Cabinet-level meetings that we held both yesterday and today are just really the next step in a process that started with the beginning of this administration, and a very close collaboration between the two countries on issues of vital importance of the environment, particularly along the border.
Our discussions focused on what we can do to ensure that we make the border initiatives more effective. We have two tools for financing border projects. We need to make sure that they are doing an even more comprehensive job, although we have 39 projects currently underway, addressing particularly water infrastructure issues along the border.
We talked about global climate change issues. We are working very closely with the Mexicans who are taking the lead on air quality issues in Mexico City. We also have agreed to come together to expand the seven principles of environmental protection. We also want to ensure that we have the appropriate database so we can go forward with projects that can be reflective of measured success. And in order to measure success, you have to have a baseline database, so that's one of the areas on which we're doing to concentrate in the future.
We have talked about a focus on the Gulf of Mexico on the dead zones, working collaboratively with the states of Mexico that border on the Gulf, as well as all our states here in the United States, to ensure that we are doing what we can to try to restore that ecosystem.
Those are obviously just a few of a myriad of issues of great importance. Another one that is overriding on which we have sister-state relationships is to ensure that we have emergency response teams prepared and trained on both sides of the border to deal with any kind of environmental emergency that might result now or in the future.
And we also talked with an emphasis on ensuring that we continue to maintain air quality standards as we move forward on solving energy problems that face both our nations.
COMMISSIONER SARUKHAN: I will make a remark in English, and then I'll translate it to Spanish for the benefit of our Mexican press. I was making the summary of all of the aspects that have to do with bilateral collaboration between the two countries, and certainly an enormously broad field of areas of interaction that have to do with education.
Secretary Paige has referred to some of them; I won't repeat them -- environment, and the Administrator of EPA has already referred to that as well, and as well as other areas in science and technology. What I can tell you is that if we admit, and that's the case, that there are enormous asymmetries in the economic and commercial areas and the financial parts between Mexico and the U.S., the asymmetries in the social and human development are even bigger. And these are the ones which really matter for our government.
And those are the areas in which I believe we can do a great deal of progress, and I foresee a great deal of advancement in the next years in these areas -- in sharing cultures, in sharing educational programs. Having been president of the national university for eight years, I can tell you there is an enormous field of interaction that's still there to be explored, to be really advanced in it, both in education, higher education, but also in science and technology.
There are many, many aspects which are of interest to both of our countries. In the environment, for example, in which we have done a lot of advances, particularly in developing databases for biodiversity for North America, the construction of our very, very large millimetric telescope, which is now about to be finished in the state of Puebla. And these are only examples of the many things that could be achieved between the two countries.
I believe that the solidity, the strength of the relations between the two countries will only be achieved fully when the cultural and educational bases of the two societies really get together and we get to understand much within our cultures, our educational systems and our societies.
So this is something that I look at with great interest for the future. This meeting was very rich in those aspects, and I think there is all the intention to really broaden greatly on these issues in the future.
Q Mr. Ashcroft, does the President share President Fox's timetable on immigration, on an immigration agreement -- to have an immigration agreement concluded by the end of this year? And what is your reaction to this proposal?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: From the beginning of the relationship between President Fox and President Bush, there's been a clear understanding about the need to treat individuals with dignity, to be concerned about the safety of individuals along our borders, to be concerned about the contributions that individuals make in our culture and in the Mexican culture.
The President of the United States has placed a high priority on developing a strategy of matching willing workers with willing employers in this country, and making sure that our system that recognizes the work of individuals on both sides of the border is a system which is respectful, is orderly, and promotes the security and integrity and dignity of all people.
His assignment of the Secretary of State and me to this responsibility very early in his term, and the fact that I have met with my counterparts over a half-dozen times in working on this issue the fact that the Secretary of State has met with his counterpart similarly over and over again to discuss these issues, indicates that the President of the United States places this matter at a level of very high priority. And we will work to achieve a result which is in the interest of both of our nations on a very -- as soon as possible.
Q But can you meet Fox's timetable?
Q Do you agree with President Fox --
Q He said he wanted to have an agreement by the end of the year. Do you think that's possible and do you agree with President Fox?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: We have been working very diligently and I would expect our diligent work to continue. And I cannot forecast an exact time when -- whether before or after that time, when we would have the kind of finality. But I can tell you that it is a matter of priority and substantial commitment and concern on the part of the President of the United States, and that we will continue to work as aggressively as we can to make sure that we resolve these issues at the earliest possible time.
Q Attorney General Ashcroft, is it your understanding, sir, that President Fox is talking about what some Mexican officials have referred to as the "whole enchilada," or is he talking about piecemeal progress toward the goal of having some sort of expanded guest worker program and normalizing the status of those who are here?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: Well, I really am not in the position to interpret or to explain the remarks of the President, but I believe the President of Mexico has stated an objective that is consistent with the objective we have -- that is, treating people with dignity, recognizing their contribution, developing a capacity to have an orderly process for migration in which people are a part of a legal structure so that individuals are documented and not undocumented, and that we not only respect the law, but we respect the dignity, integrity, and safety and security of people.
Those are the principles. We have spent substantial time and lots of energy getting to those principles. We now have before us the task of getting to the program and the details. And I believe that the commitment is as great now as it's ever been. It's obviously a priority of both of the Presidents, and I believe one upon which they agree.
Q Is this the first time you've heard of this deadline? Is this the first time you've heard of this deadline?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: I'm not going to discuss what I've heard of and not heard of in various settings. There have been -- what you have to understand is this: these discussions, because of the relationship that exists, which is very constructive, the discussions are very thorough and very candid and very open. And I think those are the kinds of discussions that are likely to arrive at a productive outcome at the earliest possible time, and I think that's something that it's clear that both the Presidents agree on.
END 1:19 P.M. EST