Migrant legislation draws call for Ariz. boycott
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 24, 2005


Yvonne Wingett
A Latino activist riled by legislation that targets undocumented immigrants wants businesses and corporations across the nation to boycott Arizona and book their events elsewhere.

Salvador Reza is working with a California-based immigrant rights group to organize the boycott and hopes to publicize it through Latino organizations across the country. Without an immigrant workforce, he says, Arizona's economy would collapse.

"To all the businesspeople that are bringing conventions here, people that spend money in Arizona, people that bring the golf conventions, people that vacation here, go to somewhere else," said Reza, who runs Phoenix's Macehualli Work Center. "Don't come to Arizona. It's a racist state."

Rep. Russell Pearce, the Republican sponsor of several immigration bills, called the attempt to bring about a boycott "outrageous."

"Americans ought to be the ones protesting," said Pearce, of Mesa. "Those who came here legally ought to be protesting. Those whose neighborhoods that have been destroyed ought to be protesting."

Reza and other Hispanic leaders and residents think that legislation sponsored by Pearce and other Republican lawmakers could give Arizona a bad image, similar to what the state suffered in the late 1980s over the lack of a holiday to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

They point to several specific bills:

 Legislation calling for a vote that could ban Spanish and any other language other than English from state and local government business. The state House of Representatives is poised to give final approval to the 2006 ballot measure. If the English-only proposal also passes the Senate, voters would have the final say in the November 2006 election.

 Legislation that prohibits cities, towns and counties from building or maintaining a work center that facilitates the hiring of undocumented immigrants. House Bill 2592 passed the House and will be considered in the Senate.

 Legislation that would ban undocumented immigrants from living in public housing, taking adult literacy courses and enrolling in college, among other services. House Bill 2030 is considered a broader version of voter-approved Proposition 200. It faces a final vote in the House before it goes to the Senate.

Reza and other Valley Hispanic leaders today will announce plans to walk 25 miles to oppose the legislation. They expect more than 300 students, day laborers and Hispanic leaders to walk from Mesa to the state Capitol on April 5 in opposition to the legislation.

"What we hope is that the lawmakers realize that when they implement legislation that is hurting a segment of the population, they're hurting everyone economically," said Reza. "If they want to hurt us, they're going to feel the pinch, too."

Tourism is a big business in Valley of the Sun. An estimated 13 million people visit Phoenix annually, contributing roughly $6 billion to the economy and affecting 225,000 jobs. State tourism officials declined comment until they know more about Reza's plan. One local official said a boycott could have a tremendous effect on the economy.

"It would be disappointing to see something like this happen because it's going to impact jobs, potentially," said Marc Garcia, vice president of community affairs at the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Especially when there are many, many Latinos employed in the hospitality and visitor industry."

Reza's plan recalls a wide and costly economic boycott of Arizona in the late 1980s, after then-Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded a paid holiday honoring King.

During the King Day controversy, Arizona lost an estimated $200 million from 166 convention cancellations and the 1993 Super Bowl was moved. Voters finally approved a King Day in 1992.