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Asking Mexico To Look Beyond Arizona's Headlines

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PHOENIX -- It is a familiar plea from Mexican tourism officials to prospective American tourists: Look beyond the gory crime and drug war headlines, and come see for yourself that Mexico is a nice place to visit.

It was not such a different message that Phoenix officials and business leaders gave in meetings in Mexico City at a trade mission earlier this month: Look beyond the headlines about Arizona's immigration bill SB 1070, and come see for yourself that Phoenix values diversity and is a good place to visit and do business.

That parallel wasn't lost on Phoenix representatives either.

"Sometimes what you read in the papers or what you see on television isn't really happening," Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski told Mexican reporters at a press conference in Mexico's capitol. "I invite you to come out and that you see with your own eyes, that you hear and you talk to people, that you get the real story and you spread the truth throughout Mexico. And our promise is to tell the truth about Mexico [City], because a lot of people are afraid to come to Mexico."

At a presentation by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council to Mexican business leaders, a consultant in the audience named Alex Baggott asked whether SB 1070 would be a barrier to Mexican businesses relocating to Phoenix. Baggot is a Mexican national who graduated from Thunderbird School of Global Business in Phoenix.

Phoenix business and city leaders gave a response that lasted more than eight minutes. Here are some of the main points:

The language of SB 1070 as it was originally written is different than what is in effect

GPEC President Barry Broome: If you actually ever read 1070, you might look at the law a little bit different. Really what it says, in the event that anybody is pulled over for traffic violation or stopped by law enforcement official in their normal duty, if they ask you for identification or credentials, if you are unable to produce them, there is a possibility they could raise your immigration status. I think that is pretty much the summary of it. Unfortunately that is not how the bill was originally written.

Not all Arizonans supported the law

GPEC President Barry Broome: I did not support 1070, GPEC did not support 1070, our mayor did not.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton: I think the business leadership and the political leadership in the state are realizing that probably wasn't our finest moment, we need to move beyond that.

The political climate has changed

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton: After 1070 passed in Arizona, the state senator who was the main author of it and the person who was pushing it did get recalled from office…. Since 1070, you haven't seen any bills of that nature that have any legs, somebody proposes one but it doesn't go anywhere. Those kinds of bills are dead on arrival now in the Arizona legislature.

Latinos are key to the Phoenix and Arizona economy

GPEC President Barry Broome: We are the third youngest market in the United States, Greater Phoenix is. Why are we the third youngest market in the United States? It's not because of Anglos, it's because of Latinos. And when an employer looks at your workforce, he doesn't ask you for the 50 and older crowd. He asks you for the 18-34 crowd. And who are the 18-34 year olds in the Phoenix region? They are Latinos. So the productivity, the efficiency, the dedication, the great reputation, the political and consumer buying power of the Latino community emerging in Arizona is great for us. We are very proud of it.

Congress is taking on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

GPEC President Barry Broome: The two US senators that are leading that are John McCain and Jeff Flake from Arizona. That doesn't make a wrong right but it speaks more intimately to the character of our community.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.