Bilzin Sumberg attorney Yosef Shwedel, the Consul General of Mexico in Miami, Horacio Saavedra, and Bilzin Sumberg attorney Jose Sariego at the Mexican Attorney Breakfast hosted by Bilzin Sumberg.

The image of Mexicans in Florida is usually framed around the immigration debate raging in our country currently. But the Mexican influence and presence in Florida goes far beyond migrant workers picking crops in Homestead and elsewhere in the state.

According to the Mexican Consulate in Miami, approximately 290,000 jobs in Florida are dependent on commerce with Mexico, including more than 5,000 jobs in the tourist sector directly dependent on Mexico tourism. More than 50 Florida based businesses have investments in Mexico, including Ryder Systems, World Fuel Services, Seaboard Marine and FTI Consulting. Mexicans invest $5 billion annually in Florida real estate, according to the National Association of Realtors.

These and other positive contributions by Mexicans in Florida were discussed by the new Mexican Consul in Miami, Horacio Saavedra, who arrived from Frankfort to take his post a scant three weeks ago. Consul Saavedra addressed a group of Mexican and other lawyers at a quarterly breakfast held at Bilzin Sumberg last Friday to discuss topics of interest to the Mexican business community.

Consul Saavedra inherits a daunting task. The Miami consulate is the busiest Mexican consulate in the world, issuing more than 1,700 visas annually and processing an average of 6,000 documents every month. This reflects the increasing importance of Miami as a gateway city to Mexico and the increasing influence of Mexicans in Florida.

Much of this positive influence is drowned out in the debate about illegal border crossings and the Trump wall. Consul Saavedra said that has to change.

“We need positive images of Mexicans,” he told the breakfast group. “We need to highlight the positive contributions that Mexicans are making in Florida.”

In the tourist industry alone, Mexico is one of Florida’s strongest partners, occupying 7th place among all countries in visits to Florida. Twenty percent of Mexican tourists who visited the U.S. last year came to Florida, a total of more than 400,000 annually. Miami is the second most visited city in the U.S. for Mexican tourists.

The influence goes beyond tourism, however. Mexican companies are investing in Florida in big numbers. Recently, one of Mexico’s largest firms, Grupo Mexico, bought Florida East Coast Railway for more than $2 billion, a deal on which Bilzin Sumberg acted as local counsel. Few know, however, that the majority owner of Grupo Mexico also owns Cinemex, a movie theater chain that recently opened a luxury movie theater in Brickell City Center, Miami’s shiny new multi-purpose development in the heart of the Brickell financial district.

Mexicans also are enriching our community and culture in non-business ways. This past weekend, the Cultural Institute of Mexico premiered the exhibition Becoming Mexico – The Photographs of Manuel Carrillo at the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. The exhibition of one of Mexico’s premier photographic artist was sponsored by the Mexican Consulate.

Regardless of the direction the immigration debate takes in the next few months or years, the Mexican presence in Miami is here to stay.