Mexico Says It Regrets U.S. Passage of "Real ID" Act

Mexico City -- The Mexican government said Wednesday that it regrets the passage by the U.S. Congress of the "Real ID" Act, a bill seen here as "anti-immigrant."

"Building walls is not the best way to meet the challenges we share on a common border. This government will continue pushing through diplomatic and political channels to achieve migration that is legal, safe, orderly and respectful of human rights," said Ruben Aguilar, spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Among the provisions of Real ID - which was tacked on to a bill funding U.S. military operations in Iraq - is an effective ban on the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants and a clause removing obstacles to completing a new triple-fence along the California-Mexico border.

The law's advocates say more stringent immigration measures and a more secure border are essential to combating terrorism.

"These measures are within the ambit of a country's sovereignty," Aguilar said, "but we regret them."

Since taking office in December 2000, Fox has sought an accord with Washington that would offer a path to legal residence for the estimated 5 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States.

But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, put talks toward such an agreement on indefinite hold and made border security an overriding priority for President George W. Bush, who has said he will sign the Real ID measure into law.

The director for international relations at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cresencio Arcos, said Wednesday in Mexico City that the law does not aim at "sealing the border, but rather seeks legality and order in the flow of immigration."

"The U.S. Congress has its reasons for asking the government to enforce immigration laws, but we think there's been a lot of excessive alarm on the part of the news media and some sectors about the construction of the wall," said Arcos, referring to the elaborate barrier under construction in Southern California.

Here for a binational conference on border security, the DHS official said that his government is fully aware of Mexico's sensitivity about walls along the border and emphasized the Real ID Act is not meant to obstruct "the legal flow of people and goods."