(CNSNews.com) - U.S. and Mexican negotiators continue to work on an agreement to increase the number of Mexicans allowed to work in the United States and to authorize Mexican trucks to operate north of the border, according to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.
Negotiators hope to have a plan ready for President Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox to discuss when the two leaders meet in Monterrey, Mexico later this month.
Ridge told a Washington news conference Thursday that efforts to legalize more Mexicans to work in this country were sidetracked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Mexico supports both programs because the Fox government wants to improve the lives of Mexicans now living illegally in the United States, and Fox wants more Mexicans in the U.S. to be granted temporary work permits.
But the prospect of allowing Mexican trucks in the U.S. is disturbing to the Teamsters Union, a labor organization that the Bush administration is attempting to win over to its side.
Teamsters Union President James R. Hoffa believes Mexican trucks and Mexican truck drivers are not ready to operate on U.S. roads.
"Sporadic spot-checks (the only kind of checks we do) of Mexican trucks at the border reveal that the Mexican truck fleet amounts to countless accidents waiting to happen. In 1997, almost half (44 percent) of the Mexican trucks inspected at the border were taken out of service because of serious safety violations," said Hoffa.
"Many Mexican drivers make $7 per day. Drug and alcohol testing of Mexican drivers falls far short of U.S. standards, nor are their driving and arrest records available to U.S. authorities," he added.
"Worst of all, Mexico does not restrict how long drivers can stay behind the wheel, meaning that a Mexican driver could drive for any number of hours and already be drunk with fatigue when he enters the U.S. In sharp contrast, U.S. drivers must stop for rest after 10 hours of driving," Hoffa said.
Last December, Congress approved a plan to let Mexican truckers into the country if they abide by U.S. rules.
E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.