Mexican President Felipe Calderon criticized the planned U.S. border fence designed to stem illegal immigration, saying countries should be "building bridges, not fences" in an interview broadcast on Monday.
On ABC television's "Good Morning America," Calderon lauded President George W. Bush's failed attempt to get the U.S. Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform, and said the way to stop illegal immigration is to build economic growth and opportunities in Mexico, not fences.
"The world is open in new ways," he said. "We are building fences instead of bridges."
The U.S. Congress last year authorized construction of 700 miles of fences along portions of the border, although it has not yet given final approval to all construction costs.
Asked about estimates that Mexicans in the United States illegally send home $20 billion to their families, Calderon said the exodus is not a boon to the Mexican economy because the country is losing ambitious young people.
He mentioned complaints by U.S. farmers that the crackdown on migrants meant they did not have enough workers to harvest their crops, and said "capital and labor are like right shoe and left shoe."
He predicted the flow of Mexicans illegally crossing into the United States would decrease, possibly within a decade, as Mexico's economy grew. "I want to build the conditions in Mexico to provide the opportunities here in our land."
He said he hoped the United States and Mexico could see each other as allies as they confront challenges from Asian economies.
"I hope that one day the people in America could see the Mexican people as friends, like allies."