A boom in Arizona's Latino population has resulted in a powerful purchasing bloc that could help save the state's struggling economy.
This, according to a just-released report by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that's based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It claims the state's Latino community has grown significantly, and now makes up 30 percent of this state's 6.4 million population, up from 25 percent out of a 5.1 million population in 2000.
Collectively, Arizona Latinos boast a whopping $26.4 billion in annual buying power, according to the study.
In a press release the president of the Chamber, Gonzalo de la Melena, says, "we're growing an economic powerhouse."
This growth and economic influence has come despite the efforts of nativist politicians such as Pearce, and Pearce-sponsored legislation such as Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law.
SB 1070's stated goal was "attrition through enforcement." That means making life so tough for illegal immigrants that they will flee the state.
However, the percentage of Hispanics in Arizona's population will keep going up, the report states. So if Pearce-minded lawmakers were trying to stop the Latino population from increasing, it's a little too late.
Chamber spokesman James Garcia says anti-immigrant advocates are going to have to get used to the idea that Latinos are growing in economic power.
But even with the power of the purse, Hispanics lack political clout. In part, Garcia point out, because the people most affected by Arizona's immigration policies are not citizens and not eligible to vote.
Garcia also acknowledged that Hispanic citizens don't go out to vote like they should. He observes that this lack of interest in politics comes from the lack of educational opportunities.
The Chamber is against state-level immigration laws, but boycotting the state over 1070 is not the logical thing for the organization to do, Garcia says.
"Since we are an organization that advocates for Latino-owned businesses it doesn't make any sense for us not to do business in Arizona," Garcia explains.
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That would just be hurting the Latino market, he added.
Garcia points out that some of the boycotts have had a negative effect on Arizona's already feckless economy and have driven away potential state revenue, for example Sound Strike, a bloc of musicians that are boycotting the state because of 1070's passage.
More recently Puente, a local human rights group, has called for a boycott against Vicente Fernandez, a Mexican ranchero singer, for a Budweiser contract he has entered into. Budweiser products are distributed locally by Hensley & Co., owned by Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, an SB 1070 supporter.
We've all heard Pearce's bogus stats about how much illegal immigration is costing the state. But the reality is that Hispanics, legal or not, are building Arizona's economy.