News staff writer
MONTGOMERY – Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Friday said he thinks the United States and Mexico working together could make better decisions on immigration than building a border fence, which the United States is doing on the Mexican border.
‘‘I don’t understand why you build a wall that divides friends, that divides neighbors, that divides partners, the partnership we’re building,’’ said Fox, the keynote speaker at the annual meeting held here by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Fox in an interview said the 10 million or more Mexicans now in the United States, if they have jobs, should be allowed to stay.
He also said Mexico and the United States should establish a temporary guest labor program under which Mexicans would return to their country once jobs ended in the United States.
Fox said the long-term solution to limiting the flow of immigrants from Mexico was to help Mexico develop its economy so that some day there would be little difference in personal incomes between people in Mexico and the United States.
Fox suggested that Canada, the United States and Mexico, the three members of the North American Free Trade Agreement, devote tens of billions of dollars to a fund that would ‘‘invest in underdeveloped regions.’’
‘‘Then you’re working to have an even-even situation between Mexico and the United States on income as today you have between the United States and Canada,’’ Fox said.
Fox, who was president of Mexico in 2000 to 2006, said building a wall didn’t save China from its enemies and didn’t protect communist East Germany from freedom. He noted that U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987 urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, which Germans themselves tore down two years later. Fox said Reagan understood that ‘‘walls don’t work.’’
‘‘Compassion, love, freedom, innovation, creativity is what works. And those are the kind of bridges we should be building instead of walls,’’ Fox said.
Alabama agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks, the 2008-09 president of the NASDA, said he doubts the border fence will work, especially since pedestrian or vehicle barriers are planned for only about 670 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, which extends about 2,000 miles.
Mountains and other natural barriers, as well as cameras, radar and other sensors backed by border patrols in remote areas, are supposed to make do for the rest of the border.
‘‘I don’t think it’s going to work when you piecemeal it,’’ Sparks said.