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Friday, June 18, 2004

Daily Herald - Mexican president promotes solidarity

Daily Herald

Mexican president promotes solidarity
By Michael Puente Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, June 18, 2004
When he was 14 years old, Roberto Ramirez illegally crossed into the United States from his home town of Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, as a means of bettering himself.

For the next 13 years, Ramirez, a high school dropout, was an undocumented immigrant living and working in the Chicago area.

Now 45 years old and a legal resident who lives in St. Charles, Ramirez owns a successful janitorial service called Tidy International.

On Thursday, Ramirez helped introduce Mexican President Vicente Fox at events in the Loop and West suburban Cicero.

For Ramirez, it was a dream come true.

"I never thought I would do something like that," Ramirez said.

Fox, who arrived in Chicago Wednesday, left Thursday afternoon following two days of meetings and public events with elected officials to talk trade and develop stronger relations with the United States.

Fox also hopes to improve conditions for the millions of his own citizens who have immigrated to the United States, many illegally, to look for work and improve their lives.

According to Ramirez, Fox's visit to Chicago is a sign of respect to the approximately 1 million Mexicans who call Chicago and the suburbs home. They make the Chicago area the second-largest Hispanic population in the United States behind Los Angeles.

"It shows to us that he does pay attention to what we have to say," Ramirez said.

According to Robert Gutierrez, who lives in DuPage County and owns a public relations firm in Chicago, Mexicans living in Illinois are sending about $100 million a month back to relatives in Mexico.

With that kind of monetary clout, Gutierrez said it's important for Fox to recognize Chicago's Mexican community.

"His visit shows the relationship that is building between the U.S. and Mexico. And Mexicans have solidified their presence here by his visit," Gutierrez said.

Fox's trip to Chicago is the first stop of a three-day trip of the Midwest that will conclude today in Michigan and Minnesota.

At a luncheon Thursday before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Fox spoke of the need for the United States and Mexico to once again bring immigration issues to the forefront, where they were before the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"September 11 dramatically altered the world's approach to the globalization process and dramatically changed priorities, with security becoming the main priority," Fox said. "Combating terrorism holds the highest commitment for all democratic nations."

"Mexico does not hesitate to support the United States in this matter," Fox said. "Strengthening our security should not entail hampering trade or holding up the free flow of people. Both have shown themselves to be of enormous importance to the development of each of our nations."

Before a gathering of more than 300 people, Fox said Mexico's relatively young population can help the U.S. population, which he says is much older.

Fox also assured the crowd that Mexico is doing its best to provide job opportunities and educational incentives to give Mexicans reasons to stay home.

"Believe me, we are working to make this come true," said Fox, who delivered his speech in English.

During his trip, Fox has pushed for U.S. officials to recognize a Mexico-issued identification card for undocumented residents in the U.S. called a matricula consular.

Opponents of the matricula consular believe the ID card would undermine national security.

On Thursday morning, Fox visited Unity Junior High School in Cicero to meet with residents and officials. Gov. Rod Blagojevich attended the event in the predominately Hispanic city.

Fox's Chicago-area visit began Wednesday when he attended the opening of the new, $8 million Mexican Consulate in downtown Chicago. He was also the guest of honor Wednesday night at a dinner sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and attended by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Visit: Immigration issues among Fox's top priorities

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