Friday evening, I received the letter below signed by Janet Murguria of the National Council of La Raza, essentially declaring that the boycott of Arizona over Senate Bill 1070 is finito.
Granted, the letter does point out that the boycott that developed in response to state Senate President Russell Pearce's nativist legislation, most of which has been enjoined by the federal court, has had a potent effect.
But, the NCLR, along with a couple of other groups, concludes that it's time for the economic sanctions to end. This, supposedly in response to an umbrella organization calling itself the Real Arizona Coalition.
Here's an excerpt:
...we understand and appreciate the reasons why you believe the boycott should end. In that vein, we are also aware of the hardship it has imposed on many of the workers, businesses, and organizations whose interests we seek to advance. We are hopeful that the more respectful and civil tone that you and many others have worked so hard to establish in recent months will continue.
In that spirit, effective immediately, our three organizations will suspend the boycott and cease all efforts to discourage conventions or meetings in Arizona, or to discourage our partners from participating in such meetings. In addition, we will communicate our decision to our allies and partners who supported the boycott in the hope that they will join us.
However, in the event that the injunction preventing implementation of key provisions of SB 1070 is lifted, or if the state enacts additional measures that would violate the civil rights of the communities we represent, I hope you understand that we would reserve the right to take appropriate action.
Responding to the letter's release, Sal Reza, leader of the Phoenix-based human rights group Puente, noted that the boycott of Arizona has always been a spontaneous thing. No one group started it, and no one group can end it.
"The boycott was done by the people themselves, when they began avoiding Arizona," said Reza ."The only ones that can call off the boycott are the people themselves."
He scoffed at the letter, vowing that the economic pressure on Arizona would continue from the ground up.
"We don't recognize their authority, period," Reza said of the NCLR. "They have no authority over us."
Additionally, he blasted the letter as a cowardly "corporate move," one motivated by money.
Likewise, Javier Gonzalez, spokesman for the Sound Strike, the musicians' boycott of the Grand Canyon State, was dismissive of the announcement.
"It's a little bit arrogant," he told me. "We take our lead from more grass-roots organizations. We don't take our cue from the NCLR."
Still, with Carlos Santana playing here this month, Mexican-American recording star Jenni Rivera playing Phoenix in November, and the hell-raisin', anti-SB 1070 Unitarian Universalists planning to have their convention in Phoenix in 2012, it's obvious that enthusiasm for the boycott has dwindled.
"A lot of people are not respecting the boycott anymore," Reza admitted. "We've lost the catalyst we had last year with 1070."
He gave the UUs a pass based on their civil disobedience last year, when 1070's passage provoked massive demonstrations in Arizona and the rest of the nation. As for Jenni Rivera, who played one of those demonstrations in 2010, and Carlos Santana, who has been outspoken in his opposition to 1070 and similar laws in other states, Reza seemed more annoyed than anything.
"Everybody has their price," he said. "It's just a matter of finding it. Not me. They'll have to kill me first."
For my money, Arizona remains the most racist state in the nation, with nativism a tapeworm-like force, gnawing at the innards of its body politic. That's why I've always thought Arizona deserving of an economic cordon sanitaire.
However, like all natural phenomenon, such spontaneous activism ultimately changes, evolves, morphs into other forms and tactics. Hopefully, the boycott will shift shape into an entity that can one day eradicate that monstrous tapeworm once and for all. Though, I wonder if it'll take another generation to off it.
Letter to Real Arizona Coalition announcing lifting of economic boycott of
Sept. 9, 2011
September 9, 2011
Thank you for your letter dated August 23, 2011, requesting that we end the formal boycott against conventions and major meetings in Arizona that we and other organizations called for after the enactment of SB 1070. Before responding to your specific request, it is important to recall why we called for the boycott in the first place and the results it achieved, both in
We vigorously opposed SB 1070 because we believe that, if implemented, it would result in wholesale violations of the civil rights of Latinos, Asian Americans, and others perceived to be immigrants. We argued that the law was unconstitutional, would likely never be fully implemented, and would cost
Because we believed that a draconian measure like SB 1070 required an equally serious response, we and many other organizations declared, abided by, and encouraged others to participate in a formal boycott of major meetings and conventions in
As civil rights and advocacy organizations that believe deeply in the urgent need to fix our broken immigration system, we take little comfort that our predictions have been borne out. Both the U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have found key provisions of the law to be unconstitutional, and litigation costs to the state have been significant and may grow further if appeals are pursued. While it is true that the most egregious provisions of the law were therefore not implemented, it is also true that practices conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that are analogous to those that would have been implemented statewide under SB 1070 are the subject of an ongoing federal civil rights investigation. We remain confident that authorities will find that such practices violate civil rights laws. Furthermore, the nation is no closer today to achieving effective, sustainable reform of our immigration laws; to the contrary, a strong case can be made that divisive debates over SB 1070 and similar state laws have been a major distraction that has diverted attention from the discussion of real solutions.
Regarding the boycott itself, one independent study by the Center for American Progress found that current and future tourism losses to the state have totaled more than $750 million in lost jobs, economic activity, and tax revenue. More than 400 nationally prominent artists pledged not to perform in
In addition, the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform testified that one major manufacturer decided to locate in another state due to SB 1070, resulting in over $1 billion of lost economic investment, and that other state-based companies have lost numerous contracts. And while some
SB 1070 and the resulting boycott had major political effects as well. For example, one study found that 38,000 more Latino voters turned out in
Beyond the impact in
In short, we believe that the record clearly demonstrates that enactment of SB 1070 would be unwise, harmful, and counterproductive.
Having said that, we understand and appreciate the reasons why you believe the boycott should end. In that vein, we are also aware of the hardship it has imposed on many of the workers, businesses, and organizations whose interests we seek to advance. We are hopeful that the more respectful and civil tone that you and many others have worked so hard to establish in recent months will continue.
In that spirit, effective immediately, our three organizations will suspend the boycott and cease all efforts to discourage conventions or meetings in
Thank you again for contacting us. It is our sincere hope that this decision will contribute to a meaningful and constructive dialogue as Arizonans-and all Americans-seek real, lasting solutions to fix our nation's broken immigration system in a way that is consistent with our nation's most fundamental values and principles.
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President and CEO
National Council of La Raza
President and CEO
The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights
Asian American Justice