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Friday, June 18, 2004

Fox vows to support Mexicans here

Fox vows to support Mexicans here



Fox vows to support Mexicans here

June 18, 2004

BY LUCIO GUERRERO Staff Reporter





The last day of Mexican President Vicente Fox's Chicago visit was spent listening.

For more than two hours, Fox listened to the concerns and issues facing Mexicans living in the United States. He heard about everything from the problems of undocumented residents in getting driver's licenses to the need for a bilingual public radio station in the area.

Afterward, Fox pledged his help in resolving the problems of the 2 million Chicago-area Mexicans.

"I want to let you know that the 104 million people living in Mexico are with you," Fox said. "We are here to support you, to support your rights."

The Mexican president spoke to about 3,000 people at Unity Middle School in Cicero. The crowd included social, civic and political leaders of Chicago's Latino community.

The biggest applause of the day came when Elvira Arellano, a 29-year-old single mother who faced deportation after being caught during an immigration sweep at O'Hare Airport, spoke about the rights of the undocumented. Arellano, who is now an activist for undocumented workers, said the immigrant community has unjustly suffered after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The federal government went to the airport to look for terrorists, we are not terrorists," she said. "I am here to talk about the immigrant community -- the ones with no rights, the ones who work long hours for low wages but don't count, the one's who can't go to universities but who are needed to be the backbone of this country."

Arellano, whose deportation was stalled after legislators in Washington interceded on her behalf, called on Fox not to support President Bush's immigration plan, which would give legal status to some undocumented workers living in the United States.

"This community rejects the plan of George W. Bush, because all it does is make us slaves," she said.

Fox told the crowd that Bush's plan was a good starting place. He said it was better to work on such legislation than to hope for a piece of legislation that was ideal.

Fox said he would push for the plan to include a provision that would allow family members to remain together during the legalization process.

Currently, families are sometimes torn apart if one member is caught without documentation while another is becoming legalized.

Another speaker at the event pressed the president about the need to support legislation -- called the Dream Act -- that would allow the children of undocumented workers the opportunity to go to college.

Under the proposal, sponsored in part by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), students under 21 who have lived here at least five years would be able to apply for college financial aid and for legal resident status.

Fox pledged to the crowd that he would work hard to support the issues that affect Mexicans abroad and pledged to bring back some solutions.

The Mexican president also was adamant in his concern about health care for the immigrant community -- especially children.

"No human being, regardless of documents or lack of documents, should be without medical care," Fox said. "That is something that we are going to work on.

"And if it's going to cost the government of Mexico money, then let it. But we are not going to abandon our responsibilities."

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