We are proud to be Arizonans and residents of a state whose rich history includes pioneers with a strong spirit and the stamina to endure the hardships of settling a rough, untamed country to create a bountiful place to live, rich in nature’s beauty and resources.
This history is intimately connected to our neighbor, Mexico, through the Pimería Alta — the desert — and through the explorations of Father Eusebio Kino, a missionary who traveled through what is now Southern Arizona and northern Mexico on horseback in the 1700s.
Unlike the past, the border that once served as a safe and beneficial gateway now includes a wall that separates our countries. Now this passage can result in death from unrelenting heat and treacherous terrain for migrants seeking a better life or protection from persecution. That border, if crossed illegally, can lead to a lifetime burden of fear and anguish, and of living in the shadows of our society, instead of relief from poverty.
It is clear that two very different realities define illegal crossing of our border.
One reality involves traffickers — parlaying drugs, weapons and humans — whose criminal activity rob our communities of the security and safety they deserve. Obviously, we must protect our communities from such vile and unscrupulous persons who seek to harm and hurt for their own advantage. Border security is necessary.
The second reality involves human beings who have been living in impoverished and stark circumstances or who are fleeing violence in their countries, unable to care for themselves or their families. These migrants seek the opportunity to live decent and dignified lives. They want what all of us want — to contribute to the community, to provide for their children and to live in safety.
Our country’s current immigration policy is a broken system that desperately needs reform. We need to provide legal avenues for those who, out of desperation, have resorted to illegal means to live and to work in our country. The economic and civic advantages to our nation and specifically to the state of Arizona have been researched and documented.
More importantly, revising these policies is the moral thing to do. Reformed immigration policy could end tragic deaths in our desert, would allow the reunification of families torn apart by legal and economic hurdles, and provide a way of bringing people living in the shadows to the legal “light of day” where they can begin contributing their talents and skills to our communities.
Nearly 400 Arizona community leaders representing business, education, religion, health care, law enforcement and social services met simultaneously in four cities — Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma and Sedona — on Nov. 21 at a gathering titled Arizona Speaks. At those gatherings, community leaders called for members of our congressional delegation, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama to begin working on immigration reform.
As a group, we issued a powerful and urgent call for both parties and for the president to address immigration reform.
This united call from key leaders across the state of Arizona joins that of countless voices across our nation that expect elected officials to cease their bickering and to lead this country in addressing issues now. It is time to solve — not postpone — the nation’s problems, and we believe immigration policy reform is at a critical point in time.
The cost of not taking action is too high. We ask others to join in our effort to push for reform now.