Arizona Boycott & Nebraska Voices Increase Urgency for Immigration Reform

US flag Arizona flagAcross the country last week, a growing list of entities began to announce boycotts against the state of Arizona in protest of the recently passed anti-immigrant law SB 1070. These organizations include the Asian American Justice Center, the Service Employees International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights group. The groups will pull money and meetings out of the state and are asking all companies and organizations to move major events and conferences planned there to other venues.

Organizations and governmental entities participating in the boycott include:

  • The American Immigration Lawyers Association, a national, 11,000-member association of attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law, voted to move the Association’s fall 2010 conference, previously scheduled for Arizona, to another state.
  • The National Urban League announced that they would immediately suspend consideration of Phoenix’s bid to host its 2012 annual conference.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest integrated and historically Black Greek-lettered organization in the world, announced that it is moving its 104th Anniversary Convention from Phoenix.
  • San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome has directed city employees to avoid business travel to the state, and city officials are contemplating ending all contracts with Arizona-based companies.
  • The Boston City Council passed a resolution for city officials to identify city contracts and purchasing agreements with Arizona and Arizona-based companies, and end those agreements immediately.
  • Similar proposals to Boston’s are being presented in Springfield, MA; Worcester, MA, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Chicago and New York.
  • Boulder, Colorado announced that employees of the City would no longer be traveling to Arizona on business.

Religious organizations have also spoken out against Arizona’s law. The current chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, John C. Wester, voiced his opposition to the Arizona law and support for federal immigration reform in a recent Washington Post editorial.

In the area of sports, the Major League Baseball players’ union issued a statement condemning the law. Almost 28% of Major League Baseball players are foreign born, overwhelmingly from Latin America. “These international players are very much a part of our national pastime,” MLB union head Michael Weiner said.

Organizations have called on Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix to outside the state. There are also calls to cancel the spring training Cactus League, in which 14 major league teams compete every spring. The Cactus League is worth an estimated $350 million to the state’s economy. Boycott supporters argue that it would be hypocritical to force those players to come to the state that has adopted the most anti-Latino legal scheme in the country. Such actions have a significant precedent in Arizona: the National Football League canceled its 1993 Super Bowl game in Arizona because the Legislature refused to recognize the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association Phoenix Suns changed their jerseys to “Los Suns” for last week’s game and have made strong statements in opposition to the Arizona law. Sun’s Managing Partner Robert Sarver stated that Arizona’s law is not the “right way” to handle immigration reform and calls into question “our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law. Hopefully…the federal government will step in and there’ll be a national solution.”

Suns’ star Steve Nash commented, “I think that this is a bill that really damages our civil liberties…[and] it opens up the potential for racial profiling … racism. I think it’s a bad precedent to set for our young people.”

Arizona cannot afford to lose the significant contributions of immigrants and their families. A recent University of Arizona study found that Arizona’s immigrant workers paid an estimated $2.4 billion in state taxes, and accounted for $44 billion in economic output that created 400,000 full-time jobs. Losing hundreds of thousands of these workers will surely compromise the state’s long-term economic recovery.

Here at home, Nebraskans continue to urge immediate action—most recently on Thursday’s National Day of Prayer during which more than 50 community members gathered on a busy street corner during rush hour in Omaha to show support for reform. The group included students from Creighton and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Sisters of Mercy, Interfaith Worker Justice Pastors and members, Immigrant Detainee Accompaniment Program members and other Omaha community neighbors. Among their signs were: “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me – Jesus” and “Laws Break Immigrants Not Vice Versa.” After the vigil, students delivered 800 postcards to Nebraska’s Congressional delegation.

Nebraska Appleseed joins with organizations condemning Arizona’s misguided anti-immigrant law and with local Nebraskan voices in support of our immigrant neighbors as the call for workable solutions through common-sense immigration reform becomes even more urgent.

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