The Arizona Immigration Law: The Backlash Continues

First off, there were the demonstrations. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in cities across the country, protesting Arizona’s new immigration law and demanding that Congress make comprehensive immigration reform a top priority. (See Protesters Nationwide Call for Immigration Overhaul, by Teresa Watanabe and Patrick McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, 02.May.2010.) According to the LA Times, up to 60,000 demonstrators showed up at march to City Hall in Los Angeles, while “tens of thousands” more immigrant advocates demonstrated in more than 90 cities nationwide, including an estimated 25,000 in Dallas, over 10,000 in Chicago and Milwaukee, and thousands more in San Francisco and Washington DC, according to the New York Times. (See Immigration Advocates Rally for Change, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 01.May.2010.) At the Washington rally, the NY Times reports, several dozen immigration protesters were arrested in front of the White House, including Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a leading advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, and a sponsor CIR legislation in the House of Representatives.

Then, there were the calls for boycotts. At the Chicago rally, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson drew explicit parallels between the Arizona law and the struggles of AfricanAmericans for equal rights in the 1960s, according to the New York Times, which quoted him as saying, “Arizona has become the Selma” – starting point of Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic civil rights march on Montgomery, in 1965. Reverend Jackson said the Arizona law would encourage racial profiling, the Times reports, and urged a boycott of Arizona.

Reverend Jackson was not the only one calling for a boycott of Arizona. After Governor Brewer signed the now-infamous Arizona immigration law, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva called for a boycott of his home state, and the Washington Post reports that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome has ordered city employees to avoid official travel to Arizona, and that San Francisco officials may sever city contracts with Arizona-based businesses. (See Protesters of Arizona’s New Immigration Law Try to Focus Boycotts, by Krissah Thompson, Washington Post, 30.Apr.2010.)

Several other organizations are promoting boycotts of their own. The Washington Post reports that the Mexican state of Sonora canceled a cross-border meeting that was scheduled to take place in Phoenix in June, while a group of truckers in California agreed to a short-term boycott, refusing to take goods into or out of Arizona for five days. According to the Post, a conference of black and Hispanic legislators – originally planned for Scottsdale, Arizona – was also canceled, to protest Arizona’s new immigration law.

What comes next is anyone’s guess. If the boycott catches on, few in Arizona will want to repeat the economic pain and national humiliation they experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after then-Governor Evan Mecham blocked implementation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in Arizona. As the Washington Post reports, the resulting boycott went on for several years, costing the state millions of dollars in tourist revenues and other business. The tide finally turned, according to the Post, when Arizona lost the chance to host the 1993 Super Bowl. Ultimately, the boycott worked, and Arizona recognized the MLK holiday, five years late. Evan Mecham may be long gone, but Arizona still hasn’t lived this down – and maybe that’s a good thing.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.