WASHINGTON – Rep. Raul Grijalva, D- Tucson, knows there are benefits to be had from a U.S.-Mexico relationship, but fears the possibilities have been endangered by the hostility that has become part of the immigration debate.
“The border lines went from a unique American landscape of people, history, and land itself, to a threat … to something to be feared,” Grijalva said. “Making that transition has affected the border tremendously.”
His remarks came this week at the release of a report that highlighted the many economic benefits that Mexico provides neighboring states, including Arizona – benefits that the authors said most Americans do not realize.
“I think there’s a giant awareness gap (about) what kind of country Mexico is and what it means to have a good, or a better, relationship with Mexico,” said Erik Lee, one of the authors of “The State of the Border Report,” which was released Thursday.
“It’s the 12th-largest economy in the world,” said Lee, associate director of the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University.
The report – prepared jointly by the center, the Woodrow Wilson Center and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte – cited a 2007-2008 University of Arizona study that said Mexican visitors generated more than 30,000 jobs in Arizona that year, leading to more than $2.6 billion in revenue.
Despite benefits like that, Lee said policymakers’ overemphasis on national security is causing grave harm to our relationship with Mexico. That has been particularly true in Arizona, which has seen a hardening of the border in recent years.
“Arizona has really witnessed a buildup in border patrol,” Lee said. As a result, he said, the state “really has underperformed in terms of its trade with Mexico.”
The report said the U.S. Border Patrol now has more than 21,000 agents assigned to Southwest border sectors, a more than 500 percent increase in staffing since the early 1990s. The resulting spike in arrests, besides deterring illegal immigration, has also dissuaded the many migrant workers who would typically have come from Mexico, Lee said.
An improved relationship could be beneficial to the quality of life on both sides of the border, Lee said, but the ongoing immigration debate could make or break Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.
“We’re at a really historical moment,” Lee said.
Grijalva agreed, saying the benefits outlined in the report deserve “to be part of the discussions as we go forward.”
“These studies provide a groundwork … where we reintroduce the good aspects of what a border line should be,” he said.
“This (report) is trying to redefine, redirect, and refocus the conversation about the border lines … to talk about economics, to talk about opportunity, and what is possible in the border community,” Grijalva said.
Lee said that in addition to economic advantages – he said Arizona’s “two-way trade with Mexico is about $13 million a year” – a solid cross-border business relationship would help border security.
But economics are only one part of the potential advantages, according to the report, which also looked at the sustainability and competitiveness issues that the border provides to the two countries.
Lee said the report will be given to policymakers as immigration talks continue and he hopes they look at the positives as they go forward instead of just focusing on security.
“On one hand I think Americans should know a lot more about Mexico than they do,” Lee said. “But on the other hand it’s a large, complex picture.”
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them