Union Tribune

November 20, 2002 

New U.S. ambassador to Mexico puts focus on immigration issues
Fox government likes his ties to Bush


WASHINGTON – Tony Garza, the new U.S. ambassador to
Mexico, is moving fast as he prepares to head to Mexico City and
an annual conference next week that will bring together Cabinet
members from both countries.

On Monday, the 43-year-old Texan was sworn in as ambassador
in a small White House ceremony attended by two of his closest
friends: President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

Yesterday, he had breakfast with the Mexican ambassador, Juan
José Bremer, and gathered the diplomatic credentials he expects
to present Friday in Mexico City.

"We're trying to make a lot of things happen," said Garza, who
grew up in the Texas border town of Brownsville. There he
worked at his father's gas station next to the bridge to
Matamoros, Mexico. All four of Garza's grandparents were
immigrants from the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon in
northern Mexico.

Garza's appointment has been received enthusiastically by
Mexican officials, who value the clout of an ambassador with
close ties to the president.

After Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994, he made
Garza his first appointment, naming him secretary of state and
adviser on border issues. Bush predicted then that Garza would
"play an integral part" in improving the state's ties to Mexico.

Ambassador Bremer echoed that sentiment yesterday. "He is
going to build bridges," Bremer said after the breakfast meeting
at the Mexican Embassy.

Mexico is particularly hopeful that Garza will help to rev up talks
aimed at imposing order and legality on cross-border migratory
flows that are often chaotic, dangerous and illegal.

"He is very aware that immigration is a great priority for the
government of Mexico," said Bremer, whose office is helping to
plan a national public relations campaign that will seek to
encourage sympathy for illegal immigrants among the American

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is weighing a Mexican
request that the president name a "point man" to take
responsibility for the talks. Mexican President Vicente Fox,
made the request directly to Bush, observing that Secretary of
State Colin Powell, who has led the U.S. side of the talks, is
preoccupied by an intense anti-terrorism agenda.

"That is being considered," said a Bush administration source,
who sounded a cautionary note. "You have to be concerned that
if you did that, you would raise expectations. So you have to be
reasonably comfortable that you could meet the expectations."

Mexican expectations were raised high at the beginning of 2001,
when Fox and Bush kicked off the talks. The terror attacks later
that year turned the administration's attention away from
Mexico and toward public clamor for tighter borders.

The stalled talks have strained the relationship between
Washington and Mexico City. But both governments have
claimed that news reports of last month's meeting between Bush
and Fox exaggerated the distance between the men as Fox
sought to talk about immigration and Bush wanted an agenda
focused on Iraq and terrorism.

Responding to accounts that characterized Bush as rigid and Fox
as aloof, Garza said, "I think people may have read too much into
the body language. Those two men have tremendous respect for
each other."