More and better trade with Mexico is the key to solving immigration issues, said a group of border mayors Friday during a breakfast at Tucson’s Jewish Community Center.

In addition, Mexico’s emerging middle-class buyers and that country’s growing market could be Southern Arizona’s best hope to pump up its own local economy, they said. In fact, the problem is not immigration, but a lack of better business opportunities between both countries, they added.

While there are a lot of problems linked to drug cartels, the number of immigrants crossing into Arizona is dropping, said Arturo Garino, mayor of Nogales, Ariz. He predicts that with more trade with Mexico, things should improve for Southern Arizona.

“We are going to do very well,” said Garino. There is no crisis to secure (the border). Instead of concentrating using the words ‘security at the border,’ lets concentrate on using the words ‘economic development.’ There’s nothing to do there except have better relations with Mexico and increase our trade.”

The five-person panel also included Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Paul Díaz, mayor of South Tucson and Ricardo Pineda, consul of Mexico. Community and religious leaders like Bishop Gerald Kicanas also attended the early-morning breakfast.

Ed Honea, mayor of Marana, said that immigration is a contentious issue, but that he agreed with those who believe that good economics can be the solution. He added that ultimately immigration from Mexico — in the case of illegal immigration — is mostly motivated for unselfish reasons.

“If you are a man or a woman in Mexico and you are having a tough time feeding your family or taking care of your children, you love your family,” said Honea. “You may cross that desert, put your life in danger — yes it is illegal- you are doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. I think the humane way we can solve the victimization problem is economically.”

Contact Joseph Treviño at or at 807-8029