By Karl Reiner
When Gov. Brewer signed SB 1070 into law in April 2010, few of Arizona’s political leaders had anything good to say about Mexico. SB 1070 provoked a conflict between federal and state enforcement responsibilities and generated numerous problematic civil rights issues. Picking up on the negative vibrations, Mexico’s border state governors refused to attend the border governor’s conference if it was held in Arizona in 2010.
The publicity SB 1070 generated encumbered Arizona with an economy damaging negative reputation. It has been estimated that the SB 1070 affair cost the state a loss of output in the range of $250 million, resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs and was responsible for a $9 million drop in tax revenue.
Arizona’s attempt to become involved in immigration policing also triggered a host of court battles, costing the state over $1 million in legal fees. In the end, much of SB 1070 was set aside by the courts. The widespread and unsettling reaction to the pricey endeavor may have encouraged the governor and some other state politicians to change their myopic view of Mexico.
In remarks made at the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s session on June 14 in Scottsdale, Gov. Brewer came across as an official who understands Arizona’s complex border relationship. Although Gov. Brewer mentioned border security, she also noted that it alone does not define the Arizona-Sonora relationship.
The governor’s focus was on advancing regional competitiveness and cooperation. Governor Padres of Sonora was welcomed as a friend and economic development partner. With Arizona and Sonora sharing a 389 mile border, the neighboring entities have to work together to promote regional collaboration and joint problem solving.
Gov. Brewer said Arizona values its trade relationship with Sonora; the two states share a trade corridor with potential. It will help Canada, the U.S. and Mexico meet the global competitive challenges facing North America. The investment in Interstate 11 will have long-term benefits for Arizona and Sonora.
Gov. Brewer noted that she had signed a bill extending the tenure of the state office in Hermosillo, Sonora. Earlier this year, she announced a new program, the Border Communities Economic Development Roadmap. It is designed to promote trade and business growth in the border region.
Gov. Brewer acknowledged the need for a strong cross-border relationship. It is vital to creating quality jobs on both sides of the border, for improving Arizona’s standing in the global marketplace. The governor praised the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s role in boosting trade and cooperation. Mutual investment in the tourism remains important because tourism is an economic driver in the border region.
With Arizona’s unemployment rate hovering around 8%, the leadership in Phoenix may be reconsidering its border security obsession. Arizona’s merchandise exports to Mexico are projected to reach $6.6 billion in 2013, up $400 million over 2012. By giving credence to other aspects of the border relationship, Gov. Brewer demonstrated support for economic growth. The state’s mayors have been doing it. It’s nice that the governor is willing to help.