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Gov. Says Border Fence 'Gets in the Way'

By Jennifer Talhelm
The Associated Press
    WASHINGTON— New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says a fence at the Mexican border authorized by Congress this fall "gets in the way" of U.S.-Mexico relations, and he wants the new Democratic Congress to reverse the legislation.
    "The fence is very unpopular on the border in Texas and New Mexico, in Chihuahua," he said after meeting Wednesday with leaders from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. "So one of the most significant and constructive acts the U.S. Congress should take is to get rid of it."
    Richardson said he will call on Congress not to build the fence during an address today. He also will press lawmakers to approve a bill that secures the border and provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. While Congress and President Bush approved the 700-mile border fence, a widely debated bill overhauling immigration policy died in Congress this year.
    Richardson's statements ratchet up his national profile as he weighs whether he will run for president.
    Technically, Richardson is in Washington this week for a Democratic governors meeting. But his schedule also is packed with events that highlight his background as a former congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary.
    Wednesday, he met with Chihuahua officials at an event billed as a model for how the United States and Mexico should work together. Today, he will give the immigration speech at Georgetown University, and Friday, he will talk about energy independence.
    Richardson is coy about his potential presidential plans, saying he will make a decision before the New Mexico Legislature convenes Jan. 17. Other possible candidates are already formally exploring whether to run.
    Richardson acknowledges that his background sets him apart from many other Democrats in the field, however.
    "I do have that experience," he said. "National security is going to be a key issue (in the 2008 election). America's role in the world, protecting the American people."
    "If you simply went on résumé, Bill Richardson would have to be very close to the top of the pack in the contenders for the 2008 Democratic nomination," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University politics expert.
    But other possible candidates are much better known so far, Hess said.

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