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Mexico's reforms are key to US immigration reform

Surprising and historic political changes in Mexico hold the prospect of reducing the American fear of future waves of illegal migrants across the border.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto gives a thumbs up as he gives his first state of the nation message in Mexico City, Sept. 2. Mr. Pena Nieto opened his address by praising the passage of a key education reform just hours earlier.

AP

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The US Congress returns to work this week with little prospect of passing a proposed overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws – and not because Syria and budget battles have taken the spotlight. No, the main reason lies in a common fear that more Mexicans will illegally cross the border if the ones already in the United States are given a path to citizenship.

Is that fear founded?

Not if one sees hope in the startling progress made in Mexico over the past nine months in ending partisan gridlock. An unexpected multiparty political consensus, called the Pact for Mexico and forged last December after a presidential election, has passed one reform after another with the plan to lift nearly half of Mexicans out of poverty.

The latest proposed reform, a revamp of tax policy, was released Sunday by President Enrique Peña Nieto even as tens of thousands of Mexicans protested the next big reform, an opening of the state-run energy industry to foreign investment.

Mexico’s Congress has already passed several key reforms, breaking entrenched powers in public education, broadcasting, and telecommunications while removing legal immunity for officials for criminal prosecution.

Mr. Peña Nieto calls these steps “transformational” and wisely set a deadline to finish them by the end of the year. They are aimed at raising economic growth to 6 percent from the current 1 to 2 percent while increasing revenue to build a strong social safety net.

Poor growth has been the main driver of poor Mexicans to the US – despite the strong patriotism among Mexicans. The reforms are designed to buttress that love of country so more Mexicans don’t flee – or join a criminal drug gang.

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