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The News
México City, August 4, 1999

ASSEMBLY SPEAKER SAYS [MEXICO'S] TIES WITH CALIFORNIA ARE GROWING

By MICHELLE RAY ORTIZ

California should take positive steps to soften the impact of immigration such as by helping create jobs in Mexican regions suffering from poverty and hunger, the state's assembly speaker said Tuesday.

Vile Reconquista VillaraigosaThe solution will not come from laws such as Proposition 187, which sought to cut education and social services to illegal immigrants, or demands that foreign countries pay for the education of their nationals, Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa said.

''If we want to do something about immigration, why not something effective and intelligent in place of things that will never really stop people who are hungry?'' he asked.

Villaraigosa spoke with reporters in Spanish on Tuesday after meeting Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo during a trade mission to California's southern neighbor.

Investing in towns that are sending large numbers of people to California in search of work should be the priority, not trying to ''militarize'' the border, he said.

Efforts like Prop. 187, which a federal court ruled largely unconstitutional last year, stem from California's old policy of ''blaming immigrants for fiscal problems,'' he said.

''Now we recognize that we have to look for solutions that help improve conditions for workers,'' he said.

Relations between Mexico and California - where nearly one in three residents have Mexican roots - have turned toward the positive with this year's reciprocal visits by California Gov. Gray Davis and Zedillo, the speaker said.

In his talks with the president Tuesday morning, Villaraigosa said Zedillo expressed strong interest in a Boeing Co. proposal to sell more than 6.5 billion dollars in planes - which would be built in Long Beach, California - to Mexico, Villaraigosa said.

The two also discussed opening a Boeing plant in Mexico.

Villaraigosa did not reveal any details, saying the plan is only in its preliminary stages.

He said a recent proposal by Mexican Foreign Secretary Rosario Green to launch a temporary work program in the United States would have to protect workers' legal rights. It could not duplicate the Bracero Program of the 1940s-1960s, which exploited Mexicans as cheap and unprotected laborers.

Zedillo and Villaraigosa also discussed efforts to use private money to develop local economies in Jalisco state, home to a large portion of immigrants to California.

Villaraigosa, whose father was from Mexico City and who is California's second Latino assembly speaker, said his visit to Mexico was especially exciting because it ''represents an end to the cultural wars and the start of a new friendship.'' Those promoting anti-Mexico policies and who have labeled Villaraigosa as leader of the Mexican ''reconquest'' of California, he said, ''have their heads in another century.'' They must come to realize that steps like Prop. 187 did not reduce immigration or cause Latinos to leave the state, he said.

''If we are going to stay - and yes, we are going to stay - we must try to live together with other groups,'' he said. ''Yes, there are groups like that, negative and racist, but really, they are part of the past.''


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