MEXICO CITY—With debate raging in the U.S. Senate over immigration reform, Mexican President Vicente Fox on Tuesday began a four-day trip to the United States during which he'll meet with business leaders in three western states.
Mexico's undersecretary for North America, Geronimo Gutierrez, said Fox scheduled the trip before the immigration debate as part of a campaign to drum up foreign investment, but added that immigration is likely to be among the topics Fox will address during stops in Utah, Washington and California.
Fox will hold meetings with local Mexican immigrants at each stop. He'll meet with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday and with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday.
Gutierrez said Fox will avoid wading too heavily into U.S. domestic politics but would use his time with Schwarzenegger to voice "skepticism" over the idea of using the National Guard to help police the U.S.-Mexico border.
Last week, President Bush called for the deployment of as many as 6,000 National Guard members to back up Border Patrol agents, but the troops must be activated by the governors of the individual states. While the governors of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona have said they will do so, Schwarzenegger has expressed doubts about the plan.
"Mexico wants to be part of the solution, not only the problem," Gutierrez said. "We will do this with absolute respect of diplomatic channels and with respect of those in the United States."
Fox is the second head of state to make western states the focus of a recent U.S. trip. In April, Chinese President Hu Jintao stopped in Washington state and met with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and others before traveling on to the nation's capital and meeting with Bush.
In Seattle, Fox is scheduled to meet with leaders from Starbucks, Costco and Boeing. In California, in addition to Schwarzenegger, he'll meet with a number of San Jose-based technology companies. Fox met with directors from Zions Bank in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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