Homeland Security Secretary Says Secure Border Will Make Immigration Reform Possible

Friday, February 16th 2007, 2:19 pm

By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday that Mexico and the United States need to secure their common border before Congress approves an immigration accord.

He acknowledged that focusing on security puts ``horrible pressure on the Border Patrol,'' but said Americans must be convinced that the border is safe before they back a plan to grant more immigrants legal passage to the U.S.

Mexico has been pushing for years for a U.S. immigration accord. President Bush has proposed a guest-worker program that would allow Mexicans living abroad to seek temporary work visas, but Congress has refused to back it.

U.S. lawmakers instead have supported building more border walls and beefing up security.

Chertoff commended Mexican President Felipe Calderon for extraditing to the U.S. four Mexican drug lords in January and leading a federal crackdown designed to retake smuggling strongholds from drug traffickers.

The arrests of several key drug leaders under former President Vicente Fox led to turf battles in which drug gangs beheaded their enemies and openly defied authorities.

Chertoff said Calderon's fight to quell drug violence will benefit residents on both sides of the border. He said he was impressed by the ``vigor and, frankly, the courage of President Calderon,'' adding that the Mexican leader has taken ``an enormous step forward for law and order.''

Chertoff also said the U.S. and Mexico need to ensure that their energy infrastructure is protected after an Internet threat by a Saudi Arabian terrorist faction affiliated with al-Qaida urged attacks against oil installations in countries that export petroleum to the U.S. _ namely Mexico, Canada and Venezuela.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said in its monthly online magazine that ``cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.'' The group said it was making the statements as part of Osama bin Laden's declared policy.

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