A delegation of nine state legislators from Sonora was in Tucson on Tuesday to say Arizona’s new employer sanctions law will have a devastating effect on the Mexican state.
At a news conference, the legislators said Sonora – Arizona’s southern neighbor, made up of mostly small towns – cannot handle the demand for housing, jobs and schools it will face as illegal Mexican workers here return to their hometowns without jobs or money.
The law, which took effect Jan.1, punishes employers who knowingly hire individuals who don’t have valid legal documents to work in the United States. Penalties include suspension or loss of a business license.
Its intent is to eliminate or curtail the top draw for immigrants to this country – jobs.
The Mexican delegation, members of Sonora’s 58th Legislature, belong to the National Action Party (PAN), the party of Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón.
They spoke at the offices of Project PPEP, a nonprofit that provides job retraining for farmworkers and other programs.
The lawmakers were to travel to Phoenix for a Wednesday breakfast meeting with Hispanic legislators.
They want to tell them how the law will affect Mexican families on both sides of the border.
“How can they pass a law like this?” asked Mexican Rep. Leticia Amparano Gamez, who represents Nogales.
“There is not one person living in Sonora who does not have a friend or relative working in Arizona,” she said in Spanish.
“Mexico is not prepared for this, for the tremendous problems” it will face as more and more Mexicans working in Arizona and sending money to their families return to hometowns in Sonora without jobs, she said.
“We are one family, socially and economically,” she said of the people of Sonora and Arizona.
Amparano said the Mexican legislators are already asking the federal government of Mexico for help for Sonora.
Rep. Florencio Diaz Armenta, coordinator of the delegation, represents San Luis, south of Yuma, one of Arizona’s agricultural hubs, which employs some 28,000 legal Mexican workers.
“What do we do with the repatriated?” he asked. “As Mexicans, we are worried. They are Mexicans but they are also people – fathers and mothers and young people with jobs” who won’t have work in Sonora.”
He said the Arizona law will lead to “disintegration of the family,” as one “legal” Mexican parent remains in Arizona and the other returns to Mexico.
Rep. Francisco Garcia Gámez, a legislator from Cananea and that city’s former mayor, said the lack of mining jobs there has driven many Mexicans to Arizona to find work. He said they depend on jobs in Arizona to feed their families on both sides of the border.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, in her State of the State speech Monday, said the new law needs some modifications, including a better definition of what constitutes a complaint.
Barrett Marson, director of communications for the Arizona House of Representatives, said Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, “has some concerns about how the law will be administered and applied.”
He said the speaker sought testimony from the business community last fall “to get ideas about how to make following the law easier. In the end, that’s what he wants – compliance, but make it as easy as possible to do.”
Marson said Weiers is “waiting for the governor to come out with her idea of what she wants to do” before he makes his own recommendations.