Arizona immigration law: Can city boycotts work?
After new Arizona immigration law, the Web lends weight to city councils' calls for boycotts of Arizona, and cities within the state may have legitimate beefs, say legal experts.
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The Arizona immigration law, requiring police to determine a person’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion about the suspect's legal status, was signed April 24 to go into effect within 90 days. Arizona lawmakers last week changed the language of the bill to require scrutiny only of people who police already have stopped, detained or arrested for other reasons.
This week, Boston; Oakland, Calif.; West Hollywood, Calif.; New York; and San Diego all passed boycotts or resolutions condemning Arizona with promises of looking into how to cut contracts with the state. San Francisco and St. Paul, Minn. – as well as Denver’s school system – have already banned employee travel to Arizona using public funds.
Do such moves produce tangible pressure, or are they just symbolic, toothless gestures? And what are the precedents for a city suing its own state?
The answer to the first question is yes, the pressure is real, say experts. The answer to the second is less clear.
“Plenty of blue state dollars are spent each year on conventions in Phoenix and trips to the Grand Canyon, so as boycott efforts brew in localities from California to New York, the potential for economic damage is real,” says Matthew Kerbel, a political science professor at Villanova University. When Arizona was boycotted in 1993 for refusing to observer Martin Luther King day, Mr Kerbel says, it lost 130 conventions and the Super Bowl – as much as $350 million by some estimates. Now the potential impact has grown.
“When you add the social networking capability of the Internet to the mix, you have the potential for a fairly robust and widespread boycott,” says Kerbel.