Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes spoke about immigration, water issues and provided advice for students at an event at Armstrong Hall on Feb. 23.
The free event hosted by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Transborder Studies and Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association was entitled "From the Border to the State Capitol."
Fontes was joined by a panel that included Kevin Correa, president of CLFSA, and Irasema Coronado, director of the School of Transborder Studies. He was introduced by ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales.
During the event, Fontes said the immigration issue should have a "holistic and intelligent approach." He said the federal government does not recognize the understated impact of the US-Mexico border for the economy and the environment.
"We've really got to start paying attention to these things as if we are not bigots," Fontes said during the event. "The biggest problem at the border is Washington, D.C."
He also said the most important issue facing Arizona surrounds water policy, which is a major focus for his administration.
"Water, water, water," Fontes said, "We don't have anything if we don't have water."
Fontes also gave a look into his upbringing, including his tenure at ASU as a student.
Before being elected Secretary of State, Fontes said he served in the Marine Corps. After returning, the Arizona native attended ASU and went on to earn his law degree at the University of Denver.
This lead to a career in law in his home state as a prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, leader of the International Prosecution Unit in the Arizona Attorney General's Office and then Maricopa County Recorder until 2020.
Fontes said growing up in Nogales gave him a strong sense of multiculturalism. Nogales is situated on the border of the U.S. and Mexico, and mentioned his experience growing up in that environment multiple times throughout the event.
"We spoke English in the classroom and Spanish in the schoolyard," Fontes said, as he looked at pictures displayed on projectors.
Fontes said he is proud of his Latino heritage and noted the progress Arizona's state government has made in terms of representation in the executive branch. He told a story of how he entered an executive meeting with the state government, and took a moment to recognize the Latino representation in the room.
"I'm among family," Fontes said in regards to the story.
Fontes also spoke of his time spent in the Marines and his commitment to service.
"It's about being a part of a community," Fontes said. "I wanted to serve, and I wrote this country a blank check with my life because it meant that much to me."
Fontes left students with some words of advice if they are considering a career in politics.
"If there's anything I learned in politics ... it is so incredibly hard to be somebody that you're not," Fontes said. "Do not compromise who you are, never be anything but authentic."
Edited by Shane Brennan, Reagan Priest and Piper Hansen.