Arizona's Image Still A Challenge In Mexico

By Jude Joffe-Block
April 15, 2013

Photo by Jude Joffe-Block
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks to members of the Mexico City business community on April 11.
MEXICO CITY — Three years after Arizona passed the immigration enforcement law SB 1070, the state is still viewed by many in Mexico as unwelcoming. Phoenix city officials learned as much while on a trade mission to Mexico City last week.

As Phoenix delegates talked trade and tourism in Mexico City meetings, the topic of the 2010 law came up time and again.

At a Greater Phoenix Economic Council presentation to members of the Mexican business community, Mexican business consultant Alex Baggot asked whether the law would be a barrier to Mexican companies relocating to Phoenix.

"If you go to Phoenix, you are probably thinking that 'I better watch out, the cops are going to get me,'" Baggot said later. "I am thinking that half the people in this room were thinking that same thing, they didn't know how to ask the question, I guess."

Phoenix city and business leaders responded the law did not represent all interests in Arizona, and the part that is in effect is different than the original bill's language. Furthermore, they said the political climate on immigration has since shifted.

It was an answer that satisfied Baggot.

Mayor Greg Stanton said when he met with leading Mexican tourism professionals about selling vacation packages to Phoenix, he learned the law is still a stumbling point for attracting Mexican tourists.

"We heard loud and clear that the lingering effects of 1070 still affect people in Mexico, [their] willingness and desire to come to Arizona," Stanton said. "And in fact, some of the destinations we compete with use it against us, to sell their destinations opposed Phoenix. That was difficult to hear, but I appreciate the honesty of the people in the travel and tourism industry."

One purpose of the trade mission was to reverse those perceptions, and Stanton said it will be a long-term project to do so.

"Whether people who supported 1070 or not meant it that way, that is a reality we have to do deal with," Stanton said.

He said there were encouraging developments that resulted from the trade mission, including a positive meeting with Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

Stanton says he plans to keep visiting Mexico regularly, and has the goal of opening a city office in Mexico City during his first term.