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The story behind the Real Arizona Coalition

We are native Arizonans. We have always been proud of our
rich heritage and our contributions to the community. Lisa Urias is
Mexican-American and Denise D. Resnik is Jewish. But it seems
this “Real Arizona” that we have always known and loved became
lost in a whirlwind of vitriol immediately after Senate Bill 1070 was
signed into law in 2010.

While there are strong and varying opinions on the law, the
world defi ned it for us with more than six million mostly negative
media hits. Arizona was boycotted by some of the nation’s largest
civil rights groups including The Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human
Rights, The Asian American Justice Center
and NCLR — National Council of La Raza.
And the immediate economic impact was
devastating with cancelled convention
and tourism contracts and many lost leads
on new potential businesses interested in
coming to Arizona. Its impact is still being
felt today.

There is no sloganeering or branding
our way out of the storm that took place.
As marketing and public relations professionals,
we agreed that the only way to
repair the damage to Arizona’s brand was through leadership.
Arizona needed to express its diverse leadership, respectful of
divergent views and positions. Arizona also needed facts and
recognition that a lack of federal action prompted state leaders to
take matters into their own hands.

Our vision was to fi nd a way to rightly position the state to the
outside world as one that is truly welcoming, diverse, smart and
accepting and – in essence, “the real Arizona
we all know and love.”
Many Arizona leaders were at a loss for a
response that would abate the maelstrom
that rocked our state. We all understood
we needed to fi nd some way to demonstrate
to the world that Arizona was far
more than what was being portrayed in the

We built a bi-partisan coalition consisting
of about 50 member organizations
including Greater Phoenix Leadership,
Southern Arizona Leadership, Greater
Phoenix Economic Council, chambers,
convention and visitors bureaus, major corporations, entrepreneurs,
community leaders, and faith-based and community
organizations representing thousands of Arizonans, who today,
all agree to a fundamental platform around federal immigration

Our goals were simple. First, we wanted to stop state-led
immigration enforcement-only laws that were not productive for
our economy or our communities. Second, we wanted to encourage
Congress and the White House to enact much needed
federal immigration reform. Within these goals, we sought to
fi nd common values to unite us in purposeful action. We encouraged
our own U.S. senators to lead on federal immigration
reform and encouraged our citizenry to engage in supporting
the platform that developed.

In late 2010 and throughout 2011, we did our best to educate and empower people with trustworthy information. We co-sponsored
fi ve immigration solutions conferences across our state that
included policy experts, scholars and elected offi cials; participated
in dozens of news stories and columns; connected Arizonans with
fact-based articles and reports; co-sponsored a series of Latino
Jewish dialogues; and so much more in an effort to get beyond
the rhetoric on both sides of the debate.

In early 2012, we teamed up with The O’Connor House and cosponsored
a series of civil discourse sessions. We broadened the
participation to include The Real Arizona Coalition members, Republicans,
Democrats, Independents, policy makers, multi-cultural
groups, interfaith organizations, business leadership, law enforcement,
farmers, DREAMERs and many others. We met privately to
promote candor and negotiations. And we worked closely with
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to promote civil discourse as leaders
around the table agreed, disagreed and found a path forward.

The resulting achievement is a broad consensus called Arizona’s
S.A.N.E. solution to federal immigration reform. It is a platform
based principally on respecting and acknowledging the contributions
of the approximate 11 million immigrants here now without
lawful authority, an understanding that many businesses and
industries presently rely on this existing undocumented immigrant
labor force, and the recognition that the continued success and
competitiveness of our nation requires a rational and pragmatic
immigration policy going forward. It is about our security, economy
and humanity.

Since nearly three years ago when we began this effort, much
has been achieved. The boycotts have been lifted. Our economy
is on the mend. Our state legislature is more focused on job creation,
health care and education. And most importantly, we have
a bi-partisan group of eight U.S. senators advocating for comprehensive
immigration reform, with Arizona’s U.S. Senators McCain
and Flake fully engaged.

Yes, we have come quite far in a short time, and have much
to be proud of. Yet we cannot allow this present opportunity – to
create a workable immigration system – slip through our collective
fi ngers. We cannot allow federal leadership to fail, and for the 50
states of this great nation be left, once again, fending for themselves
to address the myriad and complex issues resulting from a
broken immigration system.

Congress must act now to create comprehensive, viable immigration
system to support our 21st century economy and we must
fi nd ways to bring together our colleagues, friends and families
to understand the facts, and respectfully discuss and debate the
issues. We all recognize that leadership, by defi nition, requires
compromise. And while no interest group or stakeholder will get
exactly what he or she wants, if everyone works together in a bipartisan
fashion, the fi nal legislation will result in a better nation
and better Arizona for us all.

We hope this special Business Journal supplement helps you
learn about the issues, the importance of civil discourse and the
history in the making as Arizonans seize this opportunity to make
an indelible contribution to the passage of federal comprehensive
immigration reform.

About the Authors:

Denise D. Resnik, co-founder of The Real Arizona Coalition, is
a native Arizonan and a mother of two. Denise co-founded the
Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). In
addition, she is the President of DRA Strategic Communications
in Phoenix.

Lisa Urias, co-founder of The Real Arizona Coalition, is a Latina,
fourth-generation Arizonan and mother of two. She is President
of Urias Communications in Scottsdale.