SB 1070 Boycott Ends: Why Now?
The National Council Of La Raza Calls Off Boycott As The Supreme Court Weighs The Law’s Fate
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in her official photo.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 14, 2011 — When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law last April, it didn’t take long for groups to begin discussing and enacting boycotts of the state.
Conventions were urged to stay away and they did. Musical and visual artists also avoided Arizona venues. Businesses that are based in Arizona were boycotted across the country, to varying degrees. Arizona Tea, a retail drink made by a company in New York, began a marketing campaign to distance themselves from the state.
Although SB 1070 had become known as “the papers law” on the street, the provisions of the bill that make it necessary for local police to try and prove immigration was stayed by an injunction in July 2010 that was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April.
That provision would have never worked anyway, since all that it took to prove one’s legal status is a driver’s license. Anyone who does not think that most long-time illegal aliens don’t have a driver’s license is a rube. Without a license illegal aliens would go to jail — and probably eventually be deported — anytime they were pulled over by police.
Through the rhetoric and the legal challenges, the boycott started to crumble. In July 2010, when U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued the injunction, U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva of Arizona’s Dist. 7, called for an end to the boycott.
“This is an important moment for the nation to pause and take a deep breath,” Grijalva said in July 2010. “As part of this pause, I am encouraging national groups to return their conventions and conferences to the state to help us change the political and economic climate.”
But no one else seemed to heed Rep. Grijalva’s call and people stayed away. While it is hard to put an accurate number on how much was lost due to the political fallout of SB 1070, hotels and the rest of the vast Arizona tourism industry have lost anywhere from between $15 to $140 million, depending on which study one is reading.
No one heeded Grijalva in 2010 because most of those that are against SB 1070 know that injunctions and circuit court appeals are not the end of the fight. Most educated observers stated soon after the bill was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer that it would eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And right now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether it will consider Arizona’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision.
That is why it is so hard to fathom why the National Council of La Raza, The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights and the Asian American Justice Center called off it’s boycott last week. Why, after one, long, tough year where more than 100,000 Hispanics left the state due to political, but mostly economic, factors, did one of the largest and most influential advocacy groups take the pressure off?
The Supreme Court had not yet even decided if will take the case.
Well, La Raza and the two other groups who have stopped advocating a boycott were sent a letter in August from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s office and the Real Arizona Coalition, asking the group to end its boycott and to help in the call for immigration reform. Real Arizona describes itself on its website as, “(An) inclusive, broad-based and represented by a respected and multicultural array of the state’s community, faith and business leadership organizations, which represent thousands of individuals in Arizona.
“The Real Arizona Coalition is focused on regaining control of the state’s destiny by shifting the conversation to issues such as job creation, education, a quality environment and honing our state’s competitive economic advantage, while encouraging civil, fact-based discussions that support immigration reform at the federal level.”
Non-profit and corporate elements behind the Real Arizona Coalition include Cesar Chavez Institute, Chicanos Por La Causa, Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix, Sundt Corp., and the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ironically, the Greater Phoenix Conventions and Visitors Bureau released a statement after La Raza had announced their were ending their boycott.
“The lifting of the boycott is clearly a step in the right direction. It acknowledges that illegal immigration is not just an Arizona issue but a national one, and it makes it easier for the community to get back to the business of booking conventions,” according to the statement.
Interestingly, the joint letter sent in response to the letter sent by Gordon and Real Arizona and signed by the heads of the National Council of La Raza, The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights and the Asian American Justice Center said that the boycott had worked. And, that the time had come to move on to garnering national immigration reform.
“...We understand and appreciate the reasons why you believe the boycott should end. In that vein, we are also aware of the hardship it has imposed on many of the workers, businesses, and organizations whose interests we seek to advance. We are hopeful that the more respectful and civil tone that you and many others have worked so hard to establish in recent months will continue,” the letter stated. “In that spirit, effective immediately, our three organizations will suspend the boycott and cease all efforts to discourage conventions or meetings in Arizona, or to discourage our partners from participating in such meetings. In addition, we will communicate our decision to our allies and partners who supported the boycott in the hope that they will join us. However, in the event that the injunction preventing implementation of key provisions of SB 1070 is lifted, or if the state enacts additional measures that would violate the civil rights of the communities we represent, I hope you understand that we would reserve the right to take appropriate action.”
The addition of the warning that if the injunction is lifted — which can only happen through the power of the Supreme Court within the next few months — they will bring the boycott back.
It seems like what Gordon, Real Arizona, La Raza and these other groups are trying to do is calm the political rhetoric, but it will all be moot if the Supreme Court lifts the injunction. If any conventions or celebrities book events here next month, or next week, does anyone think the reservations will not be cancelled if the Supreme allows the law to move into effect?
Maybe word has passed that the Supreme Court will not hear the case, effectively making SB 1070 moot and the visitors bureau wants to get a jump on 2012?
Even if that is true, those supporting the potential law are not giving up. The American Center for Law and Justice last week filed an amicus brief supporting Arizona's petition for writ of certiorari withthe Supreme Court.
"The state of Arizona acted appropriately and constitutionally when it took action to target illegal immigration," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "This state law is sound and gives Arizona the constitutional authority to protect its borders and its citizens. As other states consider similar laws to do the same, it's important that the Supreme Court take this case and put an end to any questions about the validity and constitutionality of the Arizona law. There is no question that states can take action that compliments federal immigration law without violating it. That's exactly what Arizona has done and we're hopeful the high court engages this issue and reverses a flawed appeals court decision."
The group which the ACLJ represents might just make the national immigration reform that La Raza and Real Arizona support impossible since it represents 59 members of Congress and more than 57,000 Americans who have signed on to the ACLJ's Committee to Protect America's Border.
Oh, and virtually all of the 59 members of Congress that signed on to the ACLJ’s brief are republicans.
Looks like the boycott might be back in the near future.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.