Gov. Jan Brewer had not yet even signed SB 1070 when the first calls came for an economic boycott against Arizona to protest the controversial immigration law.
Since then, cities from Los Angeles to Boston have passed resolutions prohibiting official travel to or business with the Grand Canyon State, artists from rapper Kanye West to filmmaker Michael Moore have vowed not to come here, and groups across the country are pressuring major league baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona.
Now, groups in support of SB 1070 are urging boycotts against any anti-SB 1070 entity boycotting Arizona. Some are calling for a “buy-cott” — getting people to come to Arizona to spend money as a way to show support for the state and its new immigration law.
On the popular social networking site Facebook, there are at least 176 groups and special pages that have been formed urging boycotts of one sort or another, some in support of SB 1070, some against it. They include “Let’s boycott — the nation against Arizona SB 1070,” “Boycott the boycotters — Arizona and friends strike back!!!” and one that seems confused about what it’s boycotting: “Boycott or Support Arizona for the Illegal Immigration Law.”
It would be funny if the situation wasn’t so serious. Arizona was hit particularly hard by the nation’s recession and has yet to see significant signs of recovery. The Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association’s website states that “Arizona tourism is currently in a very fragile state of recovery and the negative perceptions surrounding this legislation are tarnishing Arizona’s image and could easily have a devastating effect on that progress.” According to the site, 200,000 Arizona families rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Clearly, the last thing our state needs is an economic boycott.
SB 1070 requires law enforcement officers as part of any lawful stop to check the person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” he or she is not in the United States legally. And it requires immigrants to carry proof that they are here legally. Latinos, civil rights groups and law enforcement are concerned that this law will create an environment ripe for racial profiling and discrimination.
But people also need to keep in mind that SB 1070 was basically an act of desperation by Arizona to get President Barack Obama and the federal government to live up to their responsibility to secure our border. In a commentary for ESPN, Brewer detailed a number of issues that led to SB 1070. She pointed out that Phoenix had 316 kidnapping cases in 2009, and almost all of those kidnapped were illegal immigrants or linked to the Mexican drug trade; that busts of drop houses, where illegal immigrants are held for ransom or abused, are “not uncommon occurrences in Arizona neighborhoods;” and that Arizona has about 6,000 prison inmates who are foreign nationals, costing the state about $150 million a year.
Illegal immigration is a problem that must be addressed, especially in how it’s affecting our citizens living closest to the border. But SB 1070, no matter how well-intentioned, has great potential to trample the rights of innocent people, create a police-state atmosphere, and hinder the efforts of law enforcement to focus on other serious crimes.
Last week, AzPOST approved plans for training police officers, but didn’t address the most important aspect of that: what defines “reasonable suspicion.” This is where our attention should be focused right now — holding AzPOST and Brewer accountable for coming up with clear guidelines.
Rallies, boycotts and buy-cotts make us feel like we’re doing something. But really, they just fuel anger and outrage and keep us in a cat-chasing-its-tail frame of mind as we look for more ways to boycott the state or boycott the boycotters or boycott the boycotters who are boycotting the boycotters.