Migration of Mexicans Can't Be Stopped, Says Felipe Calderon

The question of how to deal with the hundreds of thousands of illegal Mexicans entering the United States each year has become a divisive issue across the country.

President Bush signed a bill last year that authorized the construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which would cost billions of dollars.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has called the idea of building the fence "deplorable," and said today on "Good Morning America" that he wanted to strengthen the Mexican economy to keep Mexicans there.

"Let me tell you, I think that the only way to stop migration is to provide to the people opportunities here in Mexico," Calderon said in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer.

The Pew Research Center estimated that about 6.2 million undocumented Mexicans lived in the United States in 2005.

A majority of the Mexicans who cross the border are young and male. And while many of the immigrants come to the states seeking jobs and security, a large number of them already were employed in their native country.

Their goal is to make money in America and to send it back home and into the Mexican economy. The transaction is a huge boost to Mexico's economy, providing $20 billion a year in additional funds.

Calderon said having the youngest, strongest and bravest leaving the home country and their families take a huge toll on Mexico.

Calderon told Sawyer that some of his own relatives live and work in the United States— "some of them in the vegetable fields, others in restaurants and others in construction," he said.

Immigration to America is a "natural phenomenon," Calderon said, because Mexico has a large, young labor force that is needed by U.S. businesses, a sentiment that some politicians and business leaders across the country agree with.

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New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has said his city would "collapse if they were deported," referring to Mexican immigrants.

The agriculture and the food service industries across the country are especially reliant on Mexican workers. A recent report out of Washington said that apple growers don't have the workers to harvest the fruit.

"If you took away Hispanic labor from agriculture and from dairying in Wisconsin, we'd be in crisis," said Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilestuen. "There's no two ways about that."

Calderon said that Mexico needs to attract more American capital into the country to create more jobs and provide comprehensive regulations about immigration.

Finding a common ground in the United States on those regulations has proved difficult. Congress failed to pass an immigration reform bill in June that would have allowed a guest worker program.

Now the White House is reportedly rewriting regulations that restrict foreign workers in order to save farmers' harvests across the country.

But not everyone agrees that the influx of immigrants is a positive thing. While the majority of immigrants pay taxes totalling billions of dollars, it still costs American taxpayers to subsidize the health-care and education costs of illegals.

The issue has become so polarizing that angry protests across the country have occasionally erupted in violence.

Calderon said that he knows there is an anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, and he said that is fueling anti-American feelings in Mexico.

The Mexican president says he can envision a prosperous North America — the United States, Canada and Mexico working together to become an economic powerhouse.

"I can see that the world is open, new ways, new bridge, and we are building fences, instead of bridges," Calderon said. "So we need to, to recover the rational discussion about this matter, about this issue, because otherwise at the end of the road both countries and both societies will make a lot of mistakes."