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Kristian Ramos Headshot

Arizona Governor Wants It Both Ways on Border, States Economy Suffers For It

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Governor Brewer wants it both ways on the border. On one hand her administration has an office devoted to increasing commerce and tourism with Mexico, on the other she pushes legislation which would fund $1.4 million of tax payer money to create a militia to tour the southwest border, ultimately hurting commerce and tourism from our southern neighbor. She can't have it both ways.

In a speech from 2009 Gov. Brewer noted: "Our exports to Mexico from Arizona reached nearly $6 billion in 2008, with total bilateral trade through our ports of entry in excess of $20 billion. And we must not forget our visitors from Mexico that come and spend money in our malls, hotels and restaurants, generating over $2.6 billion in sales in Arizona. That's an increase of more than 200% since 2001, a remarkable level of growth that indicates just how important Mexican visitors are to the Arizona economy."

Since Governor Brewer has been in office the number of tourists coming into Arizona from Mexico has declined hurting the states economy. The numbers cited above have actually come down from where they were in 2007 -2008, when Mexican visitors to Arizona supported over 30,000 jobs in the state with total sales of $3.61 billion giving the state a much needed economic boost which are surely missing today as Arizona is facing unparalleled economic woes.

Governor Brewer is right about one thing: the Ports of Entry along our Southwest Border are critically important to Arizona and the rest of the country. If the Governor feels impelled to talk about security she should be talking about economic security for Arizona, which would include finding ways to enhance their ports of entry. In a recent Congressional field hearing, Nogales customs broker Terry Shannon Jr. noted that despite the importance of the economic activity along the border, a lack of proper staffing at the ports of entry has led to long wait times that discourage cross-border transit. He noted that while 34 million people crossed through Arizona's ports in 2005, the number fell to 23 million in 2010. That is a lot of money to be turning away at a time when the states economy could use the influx of cash.

Which begs a greater question, if the Governor is concerned about the states economy, shouldn't she be focused on increasing revenue and not expending limited resources on pointless political ploys? In this economic environment why on earth would the state legislature put forth any money, let alone $1.4 million for a militia which will only hurt the economy of those along the southwest border? Shouldn't they be focused on enhancing commerce and tourism along the border instead? A recent report noted that violence along the Arizona border is at an all time low, and undocumented entry into the United States is actually at a net zero, the only people Gov. Brewer is keeping out is tourists and businesses looking to invest in the state.

If Governor Brewer was actually looking to help Arizona's economy she would find a way to take that $1.4 million and invest it in the Ports of Entry. At the end of the day in the economy the state is facing, promoting more public private partnerships only enhance trade and tourism which would make sense for Arizona, if not for the Governors political calculations.