Napolitano Cites Former GOP Governor: ‘God Made the United States and Mexico Neighbors’

By Penny Starr | September 18, 2012 | 12:19 PM EDT

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano spoke on Sept. 17, 2012 at the Woodrow Wilson Center is Washington, D.C. ( Starr)

( – When asked about the importance of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano quoted a former Republican governor of Arizona who said God had made the two countries neighbors.

“There’s a quote attributed to many different people,” Napolitano said at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Monday, where she shared the podium with Mexico's Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poire. “I always attribute it to Paul Fannin, a former Republican governor of Arizona, who said, ‘God made the United States and Mexico neighbors. We should endeavor to be good neighbors.’”

“I think it helps to keep that in mind,” Napolitano said at the event, which was billed as “Reviewing the U.S.-Mexico Security Relationship.”

Fannin’s exact quote was “God made us neighbors, let us be good neighbors,” and referred to Arizona’s relationship with Sonoma, Mexico. The remark dates back to 1959 when Fannin and his Mexican counterpart created the Arizona-Mexico West Coast Trade Commission, later the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

That year at the University of Arizona's first Arizona-Sonora International Conference on Regional Development, Governor Paul J. Fannin together with his Sonoran counterpart, Alvaro Obregon Tapia, created the Arizona-Mexico West Coast Trade Commission.

The stated mission of the commission was “to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for residents of Arizona by promoting a strong, cooperative relationship with Mexico and Latin America through advocacy, trade, networking and information.”

Napolitano made the remarks about Fannin when asked by Andrew Selee, vice president for Programs and senior adviser to the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center and moderator of the event, about why the relationship between Mexico and the United States is important.

“First of all, we share a huge border,” Napolitano said. “We have millions of people who live along the border.”

Napolitano said Mexico is an important trading partner with the United States and the two countries need to cooperate on the “big issues.”

“The big issues of illegal migration, human smuggling, drug trafficking, violence along the border that we’ve experienced for a long time and I think we’ve jointly decided that we’ve experienced it for long enough and it’s time to really look at that border as a shared opportunity as well as a shared challenge,” Napolitano said.