In Phoenix, we know the need for immigration reform because we've been calling for it for decades, and our economy is still waiting.
Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level no longer can be ignored. There is no other place where this is more obvious than right here in Arizona, at ground zero, in our biggest city. Damaged business relations, economic stagnation and the "not welcome" message to a key customer base have harmed our economy.
I've seen it first hand. As mayor, I have traveled on three trade missions to Mexico, which is Arizona's largest trading partner. Trade with Mexico totals about $11.9 billion, with us exporting about $5.74 billion worth of product to the country. Computers and electronics alone provide more than $1.2 billion worth of export activity.
We cannot ignore its ties to immigration reform. I have seen how political divisiveness has damaged our economic relationship and partnership with Mexico. Commerce resulting from tourism is particularly important. Mexicans account for more than 70% of the 4.7 million international overnight visitors, having contributed $2.69 billion and 23,400 direct jobs Arizona's economy between 2007 and 2008. I've been on the front lines trying to repair that relationship. I reassure our partners in Mexico that Phoenix is open for business, but the skepticism is still there, and our economy is hurt by it.
Our city needs comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. As a mayor who values public safety as my top priority, I've also seen the negative effects of the failure to pass immigration reform on our city's public safety. Divisive legislation rose up partly out of frustration that the federal government did not reform immigration.
But comprehensive immigration reform and border security are not mutually exclusive. Here in Phoenix, we want comprehensive immigration reform and border security. Investment in infrastructure at our ports of entry along our southern border is an economic and security plus for our great state.
I consider diversity a strength in our city, and we embrace it. Our hardworking families and kids are pursuing the American dream, and they deserve to be safe while doing it. We need a big change on immigration, and as detailed plans emerge, I'm looking forward to our nation getting started.
We have the opportunity to look toward a more promising future, one in which we can work together on common-sense policies that benefit our economy, our city and our residents.
At a time when bipartisanship is hard to find in Congress, I applaud Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake for stepping up with their Democratic colleagues and working together toward a solution on immigration.
We also need to pass the DREAM Act for the future of our city so our up-andcoming leaders can fully contribute to the community. Those who qualify for deferred action should also be rightfully granted the opportunity to apply for a driver's license as the law states, so we can give them a license to drive to their workplace and a license to lead.
Comprehensive immigration reform is about people, but it's also about our cities, and in order for Phoenix to lead the way toward a more sustainable economic future, we need Congress to act.
Greg Stanton is the Mayor of Phoenix.