Group trying to unite boycott efforts

Latinos prepared to accept outcome, former senator says
2010-05-01T00:00:00Z Group trying to unite boycott effortsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX - A coalition of organizations is working to coordinate existing boycotts of Arizona and help spur new ones. They hope knocking the wind out of the state economy will force the Legislature to repeal the new law aimed at illegal immigrants.

If it hurts Latinos who live in the state, that's a price they're willing to pay, said former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez who is chairing the campaign.

At a news conference Friday, Gutierrez said there is a need to expand the negative reaction far beyond the tourism industry, which already is being affected. Various organizations and governments already have announced they are canceling travel to and meetings in Arizona.

He said investors - particularly large ones like California's Public Employee Retirement System - need to be convinced to suspend investments in Arizona companies.

"Our goal is to bring to a shocking stop the economy of the state of Arizona until the business community, until people of good will realize that this law will not be accepted and must be repealed," Gutierrez said.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the legislation, said Friday boycotts are "thoughtless and harmful to innocent people."

But Gutierrez said Latinos in Arizona are prepared to accept the financial consequences.

Gutierrez compared it to the 1955 bus boycott by blacks in Montgomery, Ala., to protest the seating policies on city buses. With blacks being most of the customers, the move forced a change in the law.

"They finally had to rise up against the oppression of the Jim Crow laws," he said. And they brought the economy of the city to a stop, he added.

Similarly, Gutierrez said blacks in South Africa backed an international boycott of that country to end the apartheid segregation practices there.

"They recognized that in order to take injustice and knock it to its feet, it would require knocking the economy to its feet and would require a sacrifice," he said.

He said the same is true in Arizona.

"We understand that our people are inordinately the dishwasher and the busboys for the hospitality industry," Gutierrez said. "But we also understand it is they themselves, the mothers and fathers of children in this state ... that are asking for this boycott."

On Friday, Brewer signed into law several changes legislators had made in the original measure.

One removes the option of police to use race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor to decide whether there is "reasonable suspicion" to determine if someone is in this country illegally.

The other narrows the circumstances under which police can question someone.

SB 1070 said an inquiry could be made as part of any "lawful contact." The new language says the inquiry must be part of a "lawful stop, detention or arrest."

"These changes specifically answer legal questions raised by some who expressed fears that the original law would somehow allow or lead to racial profiling," Brewer said in a prepared statement. "These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona."

And gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said they also make it clear enforcement of federal immigration laws by state and local police would be "secondary," first requiring that someone be the subject of legitimate police inquiry for some other reason.

Gutierrez called those changes "cosmetic."

As proof, he cited quotes from Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the architect of the original language. Pearce late Thursday said he believes the new wording won't alter how the law is enforced.

"Pearce has an obsessive, an obsessive focus on the Latino community," Gutierrez said.

Brewer said those who oppose the new law are a minority. "I think the people of Arizona support it," she said. "I think the majority of the people throughout the country support it."

The governor said she and state lawmakers felt they had no choice but to act.

"We are going to stand up and push back and call on the federal government to secure our borders," Brewer said. "The bottom line is SB 1070 and securing our borders are two programs that go together."

Gutierrez said the boycotts already are starting even without a push from his group.

That includes councils in several cities that are considering bans on nonessential travel by employees to Arizona. The two major political parties are being urged to remove Phoenix from a list of potential sites for their national conventions.

Even the Diamondbacks, playing at Wrigley Field in Chicago, were picketed. And, in a defensive move, the manufacturers of AriZona Iced Tea are spreading the word that their product comes from New York City.

One thing yet to be worked out, he said, are exactly what companies should be targeted, whether to convince people to stop buying their products or urge pension funds not to invest in their stocks.

Some companies with a major Arizona presence have their headquarters elsewhere. Others with Arizona headquarters, like Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., have offices in Arizona but actually are incorporated in Delaware.

Gutierrez said his organization already is researching firms, "both in terms of their economic presence in Arizona and, quite frankly, their history."

The effort is being coordinated by Somos America, a coalition whose members include labor unions, immigrant-rights groups and Hispanic organizations.

On StarNet: For the full text of the revised immigration enforcement bill, go to azstarnet.com/online/pdf

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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