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Arizona-Mexico Commission holding first session since SB1070

After two cancelled meetings and more than a year of controversy, the Arizona-Mexico Commission will hold its first plenary session since the advent of SB1070.

The commission will hold its annual summer session on Friday and Saturday at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park. Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres Elias nixed the summer and winter meetings in 2010 due to the controversial illegal immigration law, but agreed to attend the summer 2011 session after meeting with Gov. Jan Brewer in January.

Padres has been a vocal opponent of SB1070 and refused to attend a scheduled plenary session last summer. The commission’s winter meetings are held in Sonora, but Padres simply did not schedule the December meeting, leading to the second consecutive cancellation, according to Margie Emmermann, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

But Padres and Brewer discussed the issue in January at Brewer’s inauguration ceremony, Emmermann said, and Padres told the governor that he thought it was important for the two states to continue the bond that the commission has fostered for more than 50 years. Padres hosted Brewer at a commission meeting in 2009, the year he took office, but has not been to a plenary session yet in Arizona.

“This is pretty big for us. We’re very excited to have the two organizations back on track and the two governors holding the meetings,” Emmermann said.

She said the primary topics of discussion will include economic development, water, the environment and energy, which will be the focus of the new energy committee that will meet for the first time this weekend. Illegal immigration and SB 1070 might crop up as topics of conversation, Emmermann said, but are not part of the commission’s agenda.

Rick Van Schoik, the director of Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies, said there is still a lot of frustration south of border over SB1070. But Van Schoik said the raw emotion of the issue has subsided in past year, largely due to the fact that a federal judge stopped the law’s most controversial components from going into effect. And officials in Mexico viewed the failure of several illegal immigration bills during the 2011 session as a positive sign the “pendulum was swinging back,” he said.

“There was no reason to get more frustrated, more angry about it,” Van Schoik said. “I think that if the courts come down on Arizona’s side, Mexico’s frustration will flare up again. But as long as it’s in this legal limbo, I think they’re willing to get back to the business at hand.”

The Arizona-Mexico Commission plenary sessions weren’t the only events cancelled in the wake of SB1070. Brewer cancelled a September meeting of the Border Governors Conference that Arizona planned to host after all six Mexican border state governors announced they would skip the event in protest of the illegal immigration law.

The Arizona-Mexico Commission was founded in 1959 by then-Gov. Paul Fannin to promote business and economic ties between Arizona and Sonora.

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