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Immigrant Grassroots Organizations Say Arizona Boycott is Not Over

A Hispanic advocacy group decided to call off the boycott initiated in response to brutal anti-immigrant legislation, but grassroots organizations were determined to stay put.

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Some out of state groups also plan to continue with the boycott, including SoundStrike, a coalition of over 200 artists and musicians that adopted a self-imposed ban on performing for profit in the state. “It doesn’t change anything for us. We don’t follow NCLR’s lead. It’s ridiculous for them to insinuate that the boycott is over, “ said SoundStrike spokesperson Javier Gonzalez.

Still, while disagreements remain over the continuation of the boycott, all agree that it has been effective.

“It’s galvanized these group of people to push the state in a direction we need to go, which is focusing on getting Congress to enact real immigration reform,” said Lisa Urias, a spokesperson for RAC.

Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform (AZEIR), a coalition of 250 businesses across the state and an early opponent of the boycott, was among those in support of NCLR’s decision. Todd Landfried, a spokesperson for the group, said the boycott stymies the potential for dialogue among different groups that could push for federal reform.

During the past year, AZEIR joined a coalition of religious leaders and community members in hosting conferences aimed at informing state residents on the facts behind immigration.

“We felt that in light of the progress we have been making, that it made sense to agree with other signatories of the letter in asking [NCLR] to end the boycott,” he said. “They could have said no.”

Efforts to contact NCLR for comment on its decision were unsuccessful. In a response to RAC’s letter, the group wrote that it is “aware of the hardship [the boycott] has imposed on many of the workers, businesses and organizations whose interests we seek to advance.”

SB 1070’s Economic Toll

Landfried of AZEIR also acknowledged growing public unease with SB 1070, which he said had not resulted in the positive effects hoped for and promised by the law’s supporters.

A study released in March by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., contrasts the economic effects of massive deportation with the cost of legalizing Arizona’s estimated half-million undocumented immigrants.

An enforcement-only approach could lead to a loss of 17.2 percent of total employment in the state and shrink the state's economy by $48.8 billion, according to the report. Legalizing undocumented immigrants in the state, meanwhile, could increase employment by close to 8 percent and increase state tax revenues by $1.68 billion.

Another independent study by CAP showed that the boycott took a toll on the state’s economy.

According to the report, Arizona lost upwards of $140 million in potential revenue from conventions the state would otherwise have hosted. The same study also projected the overall impact of the bill could amount to as high as $750 million in lost revenue, while the state’s image abroad has already taken a serious hit.

“If we keep up the financial pressure forever it can backfire,” said Luz Sarmina- Gutiérrez, president and CEO of Valle del Sol, which provides community services to Arizona’s Latino residents. “I feel like we’re already successful. There’s no point in continuing it,” she added.

Reza with PUENTE argues that strategically this is the worst time to stop the pressure. SB 1070’s sponsor, Republican Senator Pearce, faces a special recall election this November. If he looses, the recall could alter the tone of the immigration debate in the sate legislature.

Still, Reza argues, with or without Pearce the focus should be on getting the law completely repealed.

“They are letting corporations control them,” said Reza of the decision by NCLR and RAC.

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