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Southern Arizona leaders took a strong, mostly symbolic stance against construction of a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, one of President Donald Trump’s signature proposals.
It kicked off Tuesday morning with the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The Democratic-majority chamber adopted a resolution opposing construction of a physical barrier along the border, the first action of its kind in Arizona.
Hours later, the Tucson City Council joined a growing list of left-leaning cities and states that, since Election Day, have voiced opposition to the proposed wall by debating or passing measures to target the companies vying to work on the wall.
There was little doubt the progressive City Council would approve the resolution against the wall, and it did so by a unanimous vote of 6-0. But the portion of the measure targeting companies involved in the construction process drew scrutiny from regional business groups.
Section 4 of Tucson’s resolution allows the city to divest from “companies involved in the designing, building or financing of the border wall.” But it directs the city attorney to look further into how to best implement it.
“When there is irreparable harm to our environment, irreparable harm to communities by building a wall, then we have to make sure we practice what we preach, and we don’t invest or divest in companies that choose to profit from the pain and suffering of human beings,” said Councilwoman Regina Romero, the author of the resolution.
Business groups including the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Metro Chamber expressed concern about the effect of Section 4 on local businesses who contract with the federal government.
Mike Varney, CEO and president of the Tuscon Metro Chamber, said the section was “extreme and punitive” and interfered with ability to do business freely.
“No company should be forced to choose with projects to bid for, based on the sentiments of its elected leaders,” Varney said, drawing boos from the largely supportive crowd at the council meeting.
With its passage, Tucson is one of only three other cities around the country that have approved similar measures blacklisting companies. The other two are Oakland and Berkeley, Calif.
Pressure on Congress
The measure in Pima County passed along party lines, with the three Democratic supervisors voting in favor, and the two Republicans opposed. About 100 miles of the traditionally blue county border Mexico.
Even though it’s non-binding, Supervisor Richard Elias, who drafted the resolution, said the board hoped to show Congress, especially Arizona’s senators, where they stood, in efforts to prevent them from allocating funds for the wall.
“It’s extremely bad for business,” he said of the proposed wall.
“Mexico is our number one trade partner. We’ve already seen a chilling effect with businesses that work cross-border,” he said. “It’s bad for the people in Arizona.”
Elias added that he was concerned with the potential environmental impacts of a wall on the desert, as well as on the close-knit relationships between people on both sides of the border.
“Ultimately, Mexico is our neighbor and there is a huge Mexican-American population here that understands that we share these borderlands with our neighbors, and they’re good people,” he said. “We’ve created great families here in the borderlands and that needs to continue.”
Supervisor Steve Christy, who with Supervisor Ally Miller cast the dissenting votes, called the resolution a waste of time, noting construction of the border barrier falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
“What we say regarding the border wall at our level will have zero impact on whether or not the wall is built,” he said. “We have a county to run. We have many issues facing our county that deserve immediate attention, like our roads and our infrastructure and our park system.”
In addition to Elias, Supervisors Ramón Valadez and Sharon Bronson voted in favor of the resolution. They represent heavily Latino areas in west and south Tucson, as well as the Tohono O’dham Nation, which has spoken out against the wall.
Christy and Miller represent more-affluent suburbs to the north and east of Tucson.
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