Last month, an Arizona Republic article by Elvia Diaz caught my attention: Arizona is a beacon of hope? The nation's largest Latino group says yes. Earlier this year, I learned that the National Council of La Raza is hosting their national conference this summer in Phoenix. For most, this is interesting but not thought provoking.
However, from my perspective this is a major shift for Arizona. I became the President of our Tucson Hispanic Chamber seven years ago and one of the first challenges I faced was our organization’s response to the passing of SB1070.
As the state debated immigration reform, our chamber held multiple emergency board meetings and surveyed our members to form our opinion. Ultimately, we came out neutral due to the outcry from our members in support and in opposition to the bill. Yes – we had latino businesses owners who supported the idea of a more stringent immigration policy for our state. In hindsight, I think everyone in Arizona will agree, however that it was a political nightmare due to the fear of racial profiling and gave Arizona a negative public image in our nation.
During that time, I reached out to many national Latino groups and implored them not to boycott Arizona. I spoke of the potential impact on the 120,000 Hispanic owned businesses in our state and our belief that immigration reform was necessary and should be handled at the national level. We warned other states leaders that boycotts can easily turn on other states and expressed that this was not the direction to take.
Our argument was heard by the United States Hispanic Chamber who did not support the Arizona boycott. Unfortunately, it was promoted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – one of the nation’s most visible latino social justice organizations. Today, seven years later, Arizona has repaired relations and NCLR has come back to Arizona.
The reporter, Elvia Diaz projects that the NCLR event is expected to draw 4,000 people to the July 8-11 conference in Phoenix and upwards of 18,000 to the expo. Organizers say that translates into an estimated $6 million to the Phoenix economy. Our chamber is assisting in the coordination of the NCLR conference (www.nclr.org) and promoting the event to our members.
This high profile national event could not have occurred without the leadership of Governor Ducey and the relationships he has built within the Hispanic community in Arizona and with leadership in Sonora, Mexico. In addition, over the last four years both Mayor Stanton of Phoenix and Mayor Rothschild of Tucson have stressed the importance of our Latino community in Arizona and Sonora in their words, tone and presence at key events in Arizona and Mexico. If more states in our nation engaged thoughtfully with the Latino community, valued our purchasing power and the importance of trade with Mexico, our nation would not be in such a politically tense moment. I agree with the Arizona Republic reporter - Arizona is a “beacon of hope” in our battle over immigration reform.
Lea Marquez Peterson
Tucson Hispanic Chamber and affiliated chambers in Sierra Vista, Ambos Nogales and Douglas
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