Immigration reform: an economic, societal and moral imperative

Tucson’s friendliness is only part of it.

Anyone who saw Sunday’s Arizona Daily Star knows that I was among a handful of Tucsonans who were asked what we’re thankful for this holiday season. For me, a Tucson resident for almost five months, the answer was easy. I have been welcomed into my hew home with open arms and a sincere willingness to help Pima move past its current challenges and reach for new heights. Make no mistake, Tucson really is a friendly place.

But Tucson also is caring, compassionate and willing to consider common sense solutions to seemingly intractable problems. I’ve witnessed these attributes time and again since my arrival in late June, most recently last Thursday at an important community meeting that took place at the headquarters of Tucson Electric Power.

The event was called Arizona Speaks and I was honored to be among a diverse assembly of community, business and faith leaders calling on Congress and President Obama to enact immigration reform. Similar events were held at the exact same time in Phoenix, Sedona and Yuma, and our message was simple: Reform not only benefits our economy and our society, but is a moral imperative.

“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue,” Jim Click reminded us. “This is the right thing to do.”

Jim noted that many of his top employees are immigrants. He spoke about the need “to lower the political rhetoric” and urged Arizona’s congressional delegation to begin working together to make reform a reality. His words struck a chord with me and the event’s other participants.

Keep in mind that Arizona Speaks included individuals who rarely appear together in the same room, let alone share the same views on one of the most divisive public policy issues of our time. That, in and of itself, represents a powerful statement. Among us were Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Rabbi Samuel Cohon, Rev. Grady Scott, Donald Diamond, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Lea Marquez Peterson, Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Board of Supervisors Chairman Ramón Valadez. As a newcomer to Tucson, it was a great honor for me to share a stage with people whose roots in this community are so deep.

The common ground we’ve staked out speaks volumes about not only what kind of community we are, but the kind of community we hope to be. From my perspective, that should be a community that attracts, retains and develops the best possible talent. Talent is the currency of our 21st-century global economy. I know this first hand from witnessing South Korea, my mother’s ancestral home, transform itself from one of the poorest countries in the world into an economic powerhouse. South Korea today is a leader in electronics, automotive technology and other areas because of the sustained and strategic investments it made in its people. Those investments created opportunity. And if Pima’s mission could be distilled down to anything it is that – creating opportunity.

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