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L.A. vs. Arizona: Who wins in immigration law dust-up?

L.A. Has voted to boycott Arizona because of its immigration law, and the UN has suggested it could violate human rights. Will any of this matter to Arizonans?

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / May 13, 2010

Los Angeles city council members Janice Hahn and Ed Reyes talk with reporters after the city council approved a resolution to seek sanctions against Arizona for its illegal immigration law, in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Reed Saxon/AP

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Los Angeles

Two recent high-profile actions – the Los Angeles City Council voting to boycott Arizona, and a United Nations statement condemning the state's new illegal immigration law – raise the question: what are the potential impacts of these moves?

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Los Angeles on Wednesday became the largest US city to authorize sanctions against Arizona because of its tough new immigration law. The city council voted 13-1 to prohibit the city from conducting business with Arizona unless SB 1070 – signed into law April 24, and set to take effect July 29 – is repealed. The UN statement, released Tuesday, said SB 1070 could violate international human rights standards that are binding in the US.

The law requires police to ask for proof of citizenship or legal residence from anyone they stop, if officers have reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally.

Analysts are split on how much effect the two actions will have. Some say the amount of money at stake in the boycott is too small to create any monetary incentive for Arizona to change the law. Estimates on its financial impact on Arizona range from $7 million to $52 million. But the port, airport, and utility companies of Los Angeles are run by semiautonomous city agencies that can’t be forced to comply.

The financial hit will be worth it, says Bob Dane, national spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Even if the boycotts result in lost revenue, the odds are that the money lost will be far less than the $2 billion it costs Arizona taxpayers for illegal immigration in education, health care and incarceration,” he says. “If you consider further the benefits in terms of public safety, improved student-teacher ratios, higher wages, better jobs and higher wage opportunities for legal Arizona residents, higher tax payments made by workers actually paying into the system, and overall improvements in quality of life, the balance sheet looks pretty good over the long run for Arizona.”

Whatever the number, supporters of the boycott and immigration rights activists say the recession gives it more weight.

"In this recession, many devastated cities and states have been looking toward tourism for recovery," says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. "So now we think with this boycott going on, tourists will choose other options and that will have additional economic clout.”

The UN assessment, though a black eye for Arizona, may have even less of a tangible impact, analysts say.

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