06/25/2013 04:45 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Let's Support Immigration Reform

I recently had the honor to speak on the subject of cultural change at the 12th National Convention of the American Chamber - Mexico. The thrust of my talk was that Mexico and the United States will always share a border and that it's our job to take advantage of this proximity to benefit the more than 460 million people living in North America, 94 percent of whom reside in Mexico and the United States. It also makes good sense to expand prosperity to the nations of the Southern Hemisphere.

Mexico and the United States are much more than just neighbors. We are partners. And the progress of one translates into wellbeing for the other. According to the Woodrow Wilson Center:

  • Mexico is the second most important destination for exports from the United States;
  • Our bilateral trade totals more than $400 billion in goods and services; and
  • Six million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico.

However, many xenophobic politicians still miss the point. Luckily, Mexico and the United States continue to strengthen their ties of friendship and trade.

Today there is an issue that is on the table that only the United States can resolve, but will nonetheless affect our relationship for decades to come: immigration reform.

I have commented frequently on the topic of immigration. Now that formal discussions are being held in the US Congress, the issue is more timely than ever.

The importance of immigration reform

In a globalized economy, capital, goods, and services freely move across borders. It is absurd that human capital, the most valuable of all forms of wealth, cannot do so.

  1. Immigrants boost the U.S. economy. Just consider a few facts surrounding the issue:
  2. The likelihood that an immigrant will start a business is almost double that of someone born in the United States
  3. The companies founded by immigrants created close to 450,000 jobs in less than a decade and recorded an estimated $52 billion in sales in 2005
  4. A study conducted in 2010 by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that the areas with the largest number of immigrants are also those with the highest wages for native-born workers
  5. Another study confirms that immigrants, legal and undocumented, paid more than $162 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 1997

The National Research Council found that immigrants pay about $1.800 more in taxes for public services than they receive in return. The truth is that the U.S. economy needs unskilled labor to replace an aging population, as well as entrepreneurs who can provide goods and services on competitive terms.

Let's support this reform

For these reasons and many others, immigration reform is essential. I fully support the initiative, as do the businesses that I operate. Grupo Salinas and Azteca America, through Fundación Azteca America, have promoted comprehensive immigration reform since the beginning. Over the past two years, we have organized town hall discussions on immigration in Phoenix, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. I am proud to have participated in some event with the forward-thinking Mayor Bloomberg.

We also published a study on the positive economic impact of immigrants that we conducted together with McKinsey and we broadcast an intensive PSA campaign to support the community through Azteca America and Fundación Azteca America.

Millions of people of Mexican origin live north of the Rio Grande. In fact, it was precisely on this premise that we launched Azteca America 12 years ago. Among all the major issues in bilateral relations, immigration is essential because it affects the lives of so many people: 12 million undocumented immigrants on the northern side of the border and more than 20 million family members of these immigrants on the southern side.

Many politicians have agreed to discuss this reform and we should welcome this. However, even with the support of key Republicans, some members of this party have pledged to fight against the reform.

Immigration is a controversial issue, but I believe that no one could seriously argue that we should prohibit it. On the contrary, it is often an engine of development for the host country and in this regard Mexico should also consider its immigration policy. Today we have an historic opportunity to bring about a change on this question and we should promote it.