Bill Gates backs immigration reform on Mexico trip

MEXICO CITY Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:57am EDT

1 of 3. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates speaks after meeting Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the presidential residence Los Pinos in Mexico City March 20, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Alfredo Guerrero/Presidencia/Handout

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the world's richest man, said on Tuesday the United States should reform its immigration laws and give more flexibility to higher-skilled foreign workers.

Speaking at a conference in Mexico, the birthplace of millions of immigrants to the United States, Gates said reforms "would be helpful so we are predictable, so we are clear."

"I'm a big believer that as much as possible, and there's obviously political limitations, freedom of migration is a good thing," Gates told reporters.

Visiting Mexico last week, President Bush reiterated his support for an overhaul of immigration laws that would include a temporary guest worker program.

Mexicans make up more than half of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Mexico is upset at U.S. plans to build a security fence along parts of the border to curb illegal crossings.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans sneak into the United States every year in search of work, mainly manual jobs in fields, factories and restaurants.

Gates, who runs a foundation with his wife that is the world's largest charity, said flexibility of movement for higher-skilled workers was especially important for his global company.

"I think every country in the world should make it easier for people with high skills to come in," he said.

In a recent address to a U.S. Senate committee, Gates said scientists and engineers from India and China working at his giant software firm routinely waited more than five years to get a U.S. green card.

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