ASSOCIATED PRESS, December 14, 2005

MONTERREY, Mexico President Vicente Fox on Wednesday criticized the United States' decision to strengthen its border security and complete a wall along the two countries common border calling it "disgraceful and shameful."

"This situation we're seeing, a disgraceful and shameful moment where walls are being built, security systems are being reinforced, and human and labor rights are being violated more and more, won't protect the economy of the United States," Fox said.

On Monday, a U.S. federal judge lifted the final legal barrier allowing for the completion of a border fence along the Mexico-California border. Plans call for two additional fences running parallel to the existing steel barrier, with sensors and cameras tracking any movement. The fences will run along the final 3 1/2 miles (5.6 kilometers) of the border before it meets the Pacific Ocean.

Last month, President George W. Bush said he was providing border agents with cutting-edge technology like overhead surveillance drones and infrared cameras. In October, Bush signed a $32 billion homeland security bill for 2006 that included 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents.

"It would be hard to know what would happen to the economy of the United States if it wasn't for the enormous contribution, the productivity, the quality of work of our countrymen in that country," Fox said.

Speaking in the border city of Reynosa, across from Hidalgo, Texas, Fox said he remained hopeful the United States will approve a temporary guest worker program next year.

Bush has proposed a temporary guest worker program, but that plan envisions having most workers return home after up to six years working in the United States. Mexico is pushing for more permanent, legal residence for many of the millions of undocumented Mexicans living and working in the United States.

"What the United States needs is a young (work) force, energy, quality, productivity, which is what keeps that economy competitive and the only way it can stop losing jobs to Asia, to China," Fox added.

Fox also said Mexico, the United States and Canada need to work together to protect the region's jobs to remain competitive against other trade blocks around the world. He said his government will continue to insist on the protection of the rights of Mexicans working abroad.

Fox was in Reynosa supervising the Paisano Program, a government effort to clamp down on corrupt public officials and welcoming Mexican migrants coming home for the holidays.

Since taking office in 2000, Fox has traveled each year to Mexico's northern border to greet the wave of returning migrants, both legal and illegal. His government has posted more than 1,000 independent observers at major crossings and installed hotlines for migrants to report abuse.