They seemed made for each other. Taking office side by side as "compassionate conservatives", George W. Bush and Vicente Fox were united by more than a hankering for cowboy boots and ranching. President Bush was eager to demonstrate his familiarity with at least one foreign country and to utter entire phrases in Spanish. Intimacy with Vicente Fox also promised Latino votes, a blooming constituency (and possibly a decisive one in the 2004 election). Besides, "San Vicente" was the first feel-good story of the new millennium, conquering the 71-year crusty authoritarian rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and sweeping into office on a wave of reform sentiment. For Fox, Bush held countless charms, none more shimmering than the hope of an immigration accord that could relieve pressure on the economy, charm Mexico's human rights and nationalist constituencies, and endear Fox to migrants who are influential with voters back home.
The two former governors, their political interests converging, thus seemed poised to grasp the nettle of Mexican migration. In February 2001 Fox got to host the new U.S. President's first foreign trip, a bouquet previously reserved for Canada. Bush brought handsome gifts to Fox's ranch in Guanajuato: immigration was placed atop the bilateral agenda, an honor hitherto reserved for drugs. Bush also proposed a top-level bilateral migration commission comprised of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and their Mexican counterparts, Jorge Castañeda and Santiago Creel. The offer was accepted and the commission was empowered to work out a bilateral migration agreement.