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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.

PHOENIX, Arizona – The decision by the Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza to call off a year-long boycott of Arizona for its passage of one of the nation’s toughest anti-immigrant pieces of legislation is being met with opposition by grassroots organizations determined to keep up the pressure.

“This is a decision they took without consulting all the people affected,” said Salvador Reza, organizer of PUENTE, a pro-immigrant rights movement. “SB 1070 still affects us and it is disrespectful not to consult with the community.”

SB 1070, passed by state lawmakers last year and approved by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, sought to criminalize undocumented immigrants by making it a crime to remain in the state without proper papers. A federal judge blocked that and other key provisions of the bill, however, in response to a legal challenge from the Obama administration.

Activists like Reza argue that despite the injunction, local-police are still enforcing aspects of the law and that the overall effect has been to create a hostile climate towards undocumented immigrants in the state.

Some SB 1070 Opponents Urged Decision

For its part, the decision by the Washington D.C.-based NCLR to end support for the boycott was not made in isolation. The call came in the form of two letters – one from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a strong opponent of the boycott, and Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, one of its original proponents. The other was sent by the non-partisan Real Arizona Coalition (RAC), whose members include business and religious leaders, and nonprofits that serve the Latino community.

“We respectfully request that the boycott be ended and that you join us as we lead the way toward a national consensus on how to fix our broken federal immigration system. These actions will send a powerful message that constructive dialogue, not continuing conflict, offers the best way forward for all of us,” read the letter sent by RAC late last month. The group played a crucial role last year in pressuring Republicans to oppose another raft of anti-immigrant laws then being pushed by State
Senate President Russell Pearce.

“This decision by NCLR to lift its boycott reflects the success that business and community leaders nationwide are having against laws such as SB 1070,” said Gonzalo de la Melena, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, one of the signatories to the RAC letter, in a statement.

“While a number of states have considered tough measures aimed at immigrants in the past year, only a handful have passed such bills, and to date those laws have been barred from implementation by the federal courts.”

Steve Moore is president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, representing an industry that has been deeply affected by the boycott. In a prepared statement explaining his reasons for signing the letter, Moore said, “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.”

Boycott Supporters See Impact

Such sentiments have found little sympathy, however, with groups like PUENTE, which is not alone in its opposition to ending the boycott.

Luis Avila is president of Somos America, a coalition of 27 civil and human rights groups that voted last week to continue their support for the boycott.

“If there are national organizations that want out or want to stop the boycott, they are not seeing the impact that anti-immigrant laws are having on family separation, the death of thousands of people on the border and the harassment of individuals based on the color of their skin,” said Avila. “They can say whatever they want, but at a state level we still see the consequences of the anti-immigrant climate.”

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