Text of Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks at Texas Luncheon Honoring President Vicente Fox
Note: The governor frequently deviates from prepared text.
AUSTIN - It is the highest of honors to welcome a very special guest in a spirit of friendship and kinship, the leader of the Mexican Republic and a friend to the United States of America: President Vicente Fox.
President Fox, the 21 million people of Texas welcome you. We have the highest admiration for you, your values and the tremendous nation you lead. Having attended your historic inaugural ceremonies in December of 2000 where the Texas Delegation was so warmly received at Los Pinos and throughout our entire visit, I hope in some small way we can return your wonderful hospitality. Toward that end, you will notice there are no Pepsi products on our menu today.
As we gather today, we know there is more that joins us together than a common border. Texas and Mexico are tied together by hundreds of years of history, a blended culture and a shared future. Millions of our people are descendants of the same blood and heritage, and we live and work each day in a borderless marketplace.
Much will be made of our differences and much must be done to overcome any differences, but we must never lose sight of the long-term vision: to create new opportunities, new wealth and a better future for people who live on both sides of our border.
The long-term answer to the immigration challenges that confront us is not the building of structural barriers to keep people out, but the removal of economic barriers that keep people from experiencing opportunity and prosperity. When we allow for the free flow of commerce, energy and ideas, jobs and opportunity are created on both sides of our shared border.
The passage of NAFTA has not validated the claims of zero-sum protectionists who believe every job created abroad comes at the expense of existing jobs at home. Free trade has meant new jobs and opportunities at home and abroad. Just last year, despite a slowdown in the global economy, Texas exported $42 billion in products and services to Mexico alone - 4 ½ times the export total to our second largest trading partner, Canada. The Port of Laredo handled an astounding $32 billion of this export total, while serving as the entry point for $47 billion in imports.
Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, cross-border trade between the United States and Mexico has grown from a $100 billion industry to a $248 billion industry. There are now 12 industries in the Texas economy that export more than $1 billion in goods and products to Mexico each year. We export more than $10 billion each year in computer and electronics products alone.
And yet we can expand our trade ties even more should Mexico encourage further private development of its energy resources. With foreign investment as one of the top priorities of the Fox Administration, I know that the Texas energy sector stands ready to participate and partner in the development of Mexico's vast oil, gas, and electric markets.
Through my proposal to build the Trans Texas Corridor, I envision an extensive network of roads, rail lines, oil and gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines that will connect Texas and Mexico to additional resources and opportunities.
By unleashing the ingenuity of energy experts on both sides of the border, we can create thousands of jobs, create new wealth for our people and address Mexico's demand for electricity that is expected to double over the next 17 years.
We also know that the resources we have been blessed with are in many ways limited. That requires that we work together to develop them, conserve them and share them.
When it comes to the apportionment of our shared water resources, I take the same position as the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which is also dependent on the 1944 Treaty for water: Our farmers not only deserve the annual allotment of water required under the Treaty, but a commitment to address the water deficit that accrued for many years prior to the Fox Administration.
I would simply ask - in addition to the releases made in recent months - that our friends from Mexico also produce a schedule of future releases that will ensure full treaty compliance. And that you then satisfy the requirements of the treaty by releasing what is owed. Such an act of good faith will not only resolve this long-standing dispute, but will benefit the very industry that many Mexican migrant workers depend upon to make a living-the farming industry.
Let me say something about the migrant workers who cross our border to work: They provide a real value to our economy and Texas benefits from the contributions they make. I will support reforms to our guest worker laws that allow migrant workers to contribute to our economy so long as the security of our border is in no way compromised.
September 11th taught us that the very freedoms we cherish can be used against us by terrorist organizations that respect neither the laws of our society, nor the sanctity of human life.
I support the enforcement of immigration policy by our federal Department of Homeland Security, as well as the use of high-tech tools like the laser-visa program and the collection of biometric data at border crossings. We have an inherent security need that requires that we be able to verify the identity of individuals who seek entry into our country. Biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints that can be read by high-tech scanners, make security more effective by making identity fraud more difficult. Toward that end, I have asked our own federal government to fully fund these security efforts so that the important industry of trade and tourism is not adversely impacted.
Those who seek entry into our country to make a living, to visit relatives or to experience all that America has to offer, I whole-heartedly welcome. Our security checkpoints and immigration controls are intended to allow for the orderly migration of people who visit our nation, or seek residency or citizenship.
Every nation has a sovereign right to control its borders. As a nation of immigrants, we welcome men and women who enter our nation to better their lives and enrich our society. At the same time, while welcoming those who come in good faith, we must also prevent the entry of those who intend us harm.
There is much we must do together as partners and neighbors. Our shared concerns do not stop with trade, water and immigration - they only begin there. We know that pollution and disease recognize no international boundaries. I would ask that we work together to develop cleaner energy resources, cleaner air and water, and solutions for the many illnesses and diseases that afflict our border regions. Cooperative ventures related to border health, and educational opportunity, can only enhance the quality of life along the border and beyond.
As neighbors who share a 1,200-mile border, I can envision no future scenario where we can succeed if we pursue separate paths to the future. We have a common future that requires a cooperative relationship. That is what we seek today - not just for the benefit of our respective governments, but for our entire peoples.
What binds us together is profoundly stronger than what could ever set us apart. And that is illustrated most clearly in my mind by the many Texans who trace their roots to Mexico.
Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua, a poet and artist who was born in Piedras Negras in 1903 and immigrated to Del Rio in 1913, once said with great pride, "Soy Americana de descendencia Mexicana, y por dondequiera que voy se llevar con dignidad, el nombre de los Estados Unidos y Mexico."
"I am an American of Mexican descent, and wherever I go I take with me the dignity of the United States and Mexico."
Together as neighbors, partners, friends - we must forge a brighter future for all who seek opportunity, happiness and dignity in our respective lands. Thank you and may God bless the people of Texas and Mexico.
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