(Please join Brent Wilkes in the comments)
In the weeks following passage of the Arizona’s draconian immigration law, SB 1070, numerous civil liberties, immigrants rights, Latino, clergy and progressive organizations have called for economic sanctions in the form of boycotts against the state. These boycotts have initiated from extremely diverse sources, and have been quite successful.
Seven cities in California, including Los Angeles, have initiated a boycott, where the cities cease doing business with contractors from Arizona. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul have advised against travel to the city. Musical artists like Cypress Hill have cancelled upcoming concerts in the state. The Major League Baseball Players Association denounced the law, and star players like Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres have vowed not to attend the 2011 MLB All-Star Game in Phoenix if the law is still in place. Two Mexican soccer teams just postponed a match in Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns wore “Los Suns” jerseys in protest of the law. And dozens of corporations and organizations have stayed away from or outright cancelled events scheduled for convention centers in Arizona. The City of Phoenix has called it a near-economic crisis. It can be argued that the Republican National Committee participated in this boycott by choosing Tampa over Phoenix as the site of the 2012 RNC convention. You can see a wide list of groups participating in the boycott here. The AFL-CIO today even called on Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to cut all training and ties with Arizona law enforcement in the wake of the new law, or else they will be “complicit” in the racial profiling that will result.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday formed a task force of tourism officials and business leaders to help the state’s struggling tourism industry in the face of what she called “mistruths” about the state’s controversial new law targeting illegal immigration.
Brewer met privately with tourism industry leaders and later told reporters that she was forming a group of industry representatives and state officials to prepare a marketing strategy to deal with public criticism of the law. The law, which is set to take effect late July, requires police to ask a person about his or her immigration status if there’s “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally [...]
Brewer said the “truth-telling” task force would try to develop ways to “rebrand or reposition Arizona’s brand.”
It may be too late for this. I spoke today with Brent Wilkes, the national Executive Director of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens. His group has put together Unite Arizona, one of the leading boycott initiatives, and he sees it already having a major effect in just the first month. “There’s a lot of concern about it amongst the business owners, especially people involved with tourism,” Wilkes told me. “And the folks who support the law are reacting, with their MyArizona campaign.”
In addition to the straight boycott of Arizona goods and services pushed by Unite Arizona, Wilkes’ organization is calling for a kind of second-level boycott. On the site, Unite Arizona asks supporters to “boycott any corporation that continues to support the campaigns of the Arizona lawmakers responsible for this bill,” or even groups that support it. Wilkes told me he just got off the phone with Verizon, who was making sure they weren’t advertising in any radio shows with hosts who whipped up support for SB 1070. “We’re appealing to companies and organizations that have a conscience and wouldn’t want to see their brand mixed up with such an ugly piece of legislation,” he said.
“There are certain anti-immigrant radio shows in AZ, like Lou Dobbs on steroids,” Wilkes continued. “They are in some ways very responsible for legislation, whipping up people against immigrants, and public support follows.” He cited the continual claims by talk-show hosts that crime is on the rise in the state, and immigration is to blame, when in fact, crime has fallen. “On these radio shows, they don’t do any fact-checking. They operate like an unpaid PR campaign against immigrants.”
Some have made the argument that an economic boycott against Arizona only hurts the citizens of the state, many of whom don’t agree with the law. But boycotts have been used as a form of protest in America practically since the founding, and they have proven very effective in meeting desired goals. So it’s obviously likely to continue.
LULAC’s Wilkes has agreed to join us in the comment section for the next half-hour or so. Please ask him anything about the boycotts and SB 1070 in the comments.