The 9,188 square miles of Pima County are now an “immigrant-welcoming” community.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday that was backed by a coalition of area religious leaders opposed to SB 1070 or who are part of the Pima County Interfaith Council.

About 40 people from the group attended Tuesday’s board meeting, asking the supervisors to back a measure similar to one passed by Tucson City Council more than a year ago.

The Rev. Randy Mayer, with The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, said he has been lobbying the board for more than a year to pass the measure.

He said passage of the measure marks “a new day” for Pima County, adding that the county now will be able to distance itself from those at the Legislature who passed SB 1070.

“We can set ourselves apart,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to welcome you and treat you with dignity.”

Supporters say the new measures will encourage economic tourism and honor those living here legally.

Supervisor Richard Elías said the measure was designed to recognize the contributions from the legal immigrant community.

“Immigrants and refugees are a vital part of our economy. The contributions they make every day make a big difference in what we are doing, and we have to recognize that,” he said.

“The Elías family has been here for seven generations, but I can guarantee you that we have not forgotten that we are immigrants, and we came here from another place.”

Elías cautioned that true immigration reform has to come from Congress, noting existing federal policies are forcing families apart and hurting the national economy.

Supervisor Ally Miller supported the measure, saying the county needs to adopt policies to increase trade with Mexico.

“We need to catch up to ensure we are competitive in this global economy,” she said on Tuesday. “We all know Mexico is quickly growing as an economic power, and if we don’t become more business-friendly and make sure trade is coming our way, we will end up losers in the end.”

The two-page resolution notes that Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner and second-largest market for U.S. exports.

It also points out that an estimated 400,000 people and 15,000 containers cross the U.S.-Mexican border legally every year, and an estimated 6 million jobs in the U.S. are tied to trade with the nation’s southern neighbor.

Imports and exports with Mexico totaled $500 billion in 2011, according to federal statistics.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.