Arizona has spent approximately $3.5 million in legal fees defending SB 1070 since the provocative measure was enacted in 2010. Although many state officials in Phoenix don’t like to admit it, the federal government has been steadily increasing security along the nation’s borders, the program currently costs around $18 billion a year. Governor Brewer claims the federal effort along the Arizona border is inadequate. She also thinks that Arizona’s ability to combat crime related to illegal immigration is being hampered by uncooperative court rulings.
As the number of illegal migrants increased over the years, Congress ignored consideration of an aid program, an investment that may have reduced the economic incentive to migrate from Mexico and Central America. As the situation now stands, the remittances that migrant workers send home has become a very effective substitute for aid because it cannot be misappropriated or stolen. Mexico receives around $22 billion in remittances a year. In countries such as El Salvador and Honduras, remittances account for over 15% of the receiving country’s GDP.
Potential terrorism and criminal activity (mostly related to drug smuggling and human trafficking) are severe problems. It is estimated that 90% of the illegal drugs entering the United States move through land ports of entry concealed in trucks or private vehicles. Adequate resources have to be devoted to the inland ports to avoid stifling the movement of legal commercial trade and visitors. A number of analysts don’t believe Arizona’s ongoing SB 1070 legal scuffles really contribute anything to improving border security. They see big differences between criminal activity, potential terrorism and the economic migrants crossing the border to seek work.
Arizona’s border region has been struggling to undo its undeserved negative reputation. With Mexican visitors spending about $7.3 million in Arizona every day, the border region should not be viewed solely as a threatening liability. Tucson’s Mayor Rothschild believes much of the damage caused by SB 1070 has been repaired, Arizona’s mayors are engaged with their counterparts in Sonora. The expanding Arizona-Sonora relationship offers a great deal of mutual commercial potential. Sonora’s port of Guaymas is being deepened. There are excellent rail connections between Arizona and Sonora, the Mariposa port of entry at Nogales is in the final stages of expansion.
A survey of manufacturers and suppliers in Arizona and Sonora made it clear that the region is developing its own supply chain. As a result of the research, the Arizona -Sonora Business Resource Guide was published and introduced earlier this month by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Daily Star. The guide is the first systematic attempt at cataloging the resources available to businesses on both sides of the border. It is also an indication that the region has begun to view itself as a binational economic entity.
The concept has strong economic underpinnings. Sonora is the second largest state in Mexico at approximately 70,000 square miles. Important sectors in Sonora’s economy include agriculture, mining, fisheries, tourism and a growing manufacturing base. Of the gateways connecting the U.S. with Mexico, Nogales has been the fastest growing. Guaymas is the most rapidly expanding of Mexico’s 16 seaports. Tucson’s inland port can service international cargo moving by rail. The region offers an educated, bilingual workforce. Sonora has more than 190 universities, colleges and trade schools, Arizona has more than 170. As part of the CANAMEX corridor, the Arizona-Sonora region offers firms opportunities in logistics, distribution and manufacturing.
Cooperation with Sonora can help Arizona lessen its dependence on the construction and real estate sectors. Hiring by new, relocating or expanding firms will help reduce the state’s 7.3% unemployment rate. Over in Texas, which has a much higher degree of collaboration with Mexico, the March unemployment rate was 5.5%. In order to take full advantage of its unique border relationship, Arizona has a bit of catching up to do to.