Backing off tough, new security measures, the Bush administration has decided to drop a planned requirement for visa-carrying Mexicans to be photographed and fingerprinted when coming to the U.S. for short visits near the border.
The Associated Press reports a congressional official told the news service about the change, which was to be announced by Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department’s undersecretary for border and transportation, at a congressional hearing today.
The action comes on the eve of President Vicente Fox’s visit to Bush’s Texas ranch and is seen as a concession to the Mexican leader.
Agustin Gutierrez Canet, a spokesman for Fox, told AP the move “represents a friendly and positive gesture toward Mexico.”
Part of the new US-VISIT program called for Mexicans holding visas who cross the borders on short trips to be routinely photographed and fingerprinted by the end of the year. That part of the program has now been scrapped.
US-VISIT was meant to prevent the flow of terrorists into the U.S. The first part of it took effect in January and requires that visitors from certain countries traveling on visas and entering at 115 major airports and 14 seaports be fingerprinted and photographed, AP reported.
Officials from Mexico complained that Mexicans were going to be subject to the stepped-up scrutiny while Canadians were not. There also was concern about the impact of border-crossing delays on the economies of both countries.
Meanwhile, the Washington Times reported the Mexican government is lobbying U.S. lawmakers and civic leaders for amnesty or guest-worker status for millions of illegal aliens now in the United States, working through a coalition of U.S.-based immigration-rights associations, Mexican-American organizations and grass-roots Hispanic groups.
In January, Bush announced a controversial guest-worker proposal that would legalize millions of Mexicans who entered the country illegally.