Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has been portraying the state's five-year-old Senate Bill 1070 like it's an unfortunate relic of the past that Arizona needs to get beyond in order to have a cozy trade relationship with Mexico. This trade relationship is seen as the more sensible of only two options within a perspective that never acknowledges migration as a symptom of so-called free trade. SB 1070 can be sacrificed—though seemingly only in the realm of the media—for the sake of trade with Mexico, partly because the US is now essentially paying the Mexican government to assist in curbing migration. This may mean less reliance on Arizona resources, but at what cost?
The US-funded collaboration with the governments of Mexico and some of Central America to manage migration and the drug trade, with mass-scale violence as a consequence, is for the purpose of a business climate friendlier to trade and investment in the border states, and those countries south of the border. The military and paramilitary violence and the displacement of people outside of Arizona borders is invisible to us, as it relieves law enforcement resources in each state (though tax payers still pay for it). What would be more visible is the transportation infrastructure to facilitate Arizona-Mexico trade—the Interstate 11 and the South Mountain Freeway—multi-billion dollar projects that provide major opportunities for private profit subsidized by taxes. The impacts of Ducey's new Arizona Border Strike Force Bureau remain to be seen but will undoubtedly further militarize Arizona and especially the border region.
SB 1070 has become politically inconvenient for much of the Arizona business community. With the participation of the press (a sampling: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), Ducey has been making a point since June to re-brand Arizona to the Mexican business class by distancing himself from the controversial law and contrasting himself with former Governor Jan Brewer (who passed SB 1070 into law) in conjunction with making a trip to Mexico to meet with Mexican officials and business people.
The denunciation of SB 1070 is simply part of a public relations campaign. While there is no doubt that 1070 is a terrible discriminatory law, the casting of the bill as the villain serves a purpose to shift attention away from the impacts of free trade. Many of the same methods by which the US has been working with Mexico and Central America to create a more friendly business climate has much to do with why many people have to migrate in the first place.
Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are the countries that most non-Mexican migrants in Arizona (and other states) come from. Many are refugees from violence, as all three countries are among the top ten with the highest homicide rates. It isn't a stretch to say that the trade relationship relies on and causes violence and other harm for the purposes of maintaining a cheap labor force and gaining access to land and resources, whether we're talking about Central America or Mexico. The chaos and fear, and the security response which involves militarization and paramilitarization, brings more of an advantage than not in promoting free trade.
Ducey's interest is in helping portray Mexico as stable and ripe for investment. Arizona's proximity to Mexico and the alleged promise of Mexico's economic growth means Arizona has a specific interest in promoting itself and Mexico, so they can take part in the competitiveness that Arizona/Mexico trade supposedly brings, which includes cheap labor and federal funding for trade infrastructure.
Although immigration enforcement in Arizona is not incompatible with trade, and in fact is often a response to the consequences of the impacts of free trade, SB 1070-type laws are far less preferable than border controls and enforcement at or south of the border, which are increasing. One reason SB1070 is unpalatable is because it represents the myths perpetuated of the spillover violence from the border. Despite the exaggerated criminality meant to instill fear of migrants from south of the border and pass legislation like SB 1070, there is still clearly a problem of organized crime and violence. As described in Part 2, the violence has gotten worse, not because Mexicans are criminals, but in part due to the effects of US policy and cooperative efforts between the US and Mexico to manage the economic environment through militarization. The US has to pretend things in Mexico have improved because they cannot otherwise justify spending billions of dollars on the Mérida Initiative with its lack of success against the international drug trade.
Now that a federal judge upheld the so-called “papers, please” provision—one of the most controversial of SB 1070—Ducey has only vaguely responded through his spokesperson, stressing the importance of public safety and border security in addition to "a respectful and productive relationship with our neighbor to the south." Even now that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is experiencing the most embarrassing point of his career, Ducey, who was endorsed by Arpaio, has never criticized the controversial sheriff for the harm he's caused migrants (or others who have been racially profiled).
The importance will become clear of the shared ideology between that of Ducey, his associate Jim Kolbe, who is CANAMEX expert of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, and Kolbe's close colleagues who have been pointedly influential regarding NAFTA, Plan Colombia, and/or the Mérida Initiative. The history of and relationship between trade, military intervention, and the drug war south of the border reveals the true intentions of US dominance and private gain.
Lastly, the contrast between Ducey and Brewer that Ducey is playing on is a bit off the mark. Brewer was readily involved in maintaining and expanding the cross-border trade relationship, but the role of the private sphere is likely more important than either governor.