Arizona immigration law: Will Mexico boycotts cripple trade?

Mexico boycotts in response to the Arizona immigration law may put a dent in trade with Arizona's No. 1 partner.

Matt York/AP/File
Arizona immigration law: Federal immigration agents stand outside Sergio's Shuttle in Phoenix, in this April 15 file photo. The van shuttle services offer transportation from northern Mexico to cities in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Mexican boycotts in response to the Arizona immigration law are blooming like desert wildflowers.

The Mexican state of Sonora canceled a cross-border meeting to be held in Phoenix in June – the first time the annual gathering will be interrupted in more than 50 years.

Independent truckers are saying they refuse to transport goods into or out of the state of Arizona.

IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border

After the Mexican government issued a “travel alert” for Mexicans there, some Mexicans are reconsidering vacations in the state.

The new law that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed last week, makes it a state crime to be in Arizona without legal permission and obligates authorities to check the paperwork of those they believe in the country illegally. It has set off calls for boycotts and economic and political punishment across Mexico, and threatens to undermine the trust of Mexicans toward the border state.

“It is harmful for the state of Arizona,” says Alejandro Díaz-Bautista, a professor of economics at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. “It will cost some jobs. It sends the wrong message to investors in the state. It will impact tourism.”

No. 1 trading partner

Fernando Jimenez, the director of trade and investment for the Americas for the Arizona Department of Commerce, says that in 2009, nearly $4.5 billion worth of products were exported from the state to Mexico, which is Arizona’s No. 1 trading partner. That includes semiconductor chips, machinery, and plastics.

“Trade with Mexico is extremely important for our state,” he says.

Also, nearly 40 percent of fruits of vegetables imported to the US from Mexico pass through Arizona, according to research by the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

If boycotts from Mexico become widespread, it could hurt the state economy.

Cesar Nava, the president of Mr. Calderon’s ruling National Action Party, called on Mexicans to abstain from visiting Arizona, in protest of the legislation and in solidarity with Mexicans already there.

More threats could come in the days ahead. Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose government condemned the law, said that trade and political ties will be “seriously affected.”

Governor Brewer: We had no choice

Governor Brewer says that, in the face of inaction from Washington, she had no choice but to move forward with one of the toughest immigration laws on the books. An estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants live in Arizona, which has been the gateway for illegal immigration from Mexico since the border was fortified along other stretches, particularly in California.

Brewer disputed the notion that the new law would hurt the economy.

"I believe it's not going to have the kind of economic impact that some people think that it might," she said Monday. "The bottom line is that when I go about meeting with businesses that come into Arizona ... they want to know that we have a safe and secure environment into which to move their businesses here."

While the governor enjoys widespread support, she has also ignited a firestorm in the US and beyond, and Mexico is not the only one calling for revenge.

US boycotts, too?

The Mexican boycotts come in the midst of calls from elsewhere, such as from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which already said it would relocate its fall convention to another state.

San Francisco, meanwhile, is weighing a citywide boycott.

Travel groups and those planning conventions may join the ranks, says Mr. Diaz-Bautista, who says the law could lead to the type of racial profiling that makes visitors opt for other locales. (In Arizona alone, nearly 30 percent of the population is Hispanic.)

While Brewer downplayed the blow her economy might take, not all agreed with the assessment.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday the law “could have a chilling effect on international business travel, investment, and tourism in that state, as many people from around the world may think twice before visiting Arizona and subjecting themselves to potential run-ins with the police.”

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in the New York Daily News, the business mogul writes: "What's at stake here is nothing less than America's international reputation as the most open and attractive marketplace in the world...."


IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border

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