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Pro: Boycott will force Arizonans to face the consequences of action

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Ilene Durst
May 8, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Should U.S. cities and states launch economic boycotts to pressure Arizona to repeal its new immigration law?

Call it walking without documents, shopping while brown, or driving while listening to ranchera music: Arizona police soon can arrest you based upon a “reasonable suspicion” about your immigration status.


The good citizens of Arizona also will be able to sue their local police departments if they fear the officers are not performing this public service.


And if, like four-term Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, you dare speak out against this legislation, you will be compelled to close your office doors because of credible death threats. So much for the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth amendments in Arizona! Apart from the international humiliation and scorn Arizona will suffer and the lawsuits against which it will have to defend, a nationally orchestrated boycott should finally bring home to Arizona that one illegal turn does not deserve another.


Boycotts have a long, laudable history in this country. The United States first declared its independence from England by boycotting English goods before the American Revolution.


The long journey to true equality for blacks was paved in part with the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott. The rights of farm workers to union representation and protection from exploitation germinated from boycotts of lettuce and grapes.


One might even say boycotts are as American as apple pie, or as baseball, with 30 percent of its players potentially subject to “reasonable suspicion” if they participate in next year’s spring training or the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix.


Not only may baseball abandon the state. Cities as diverse as Milwaukee, San Francisco, Carson City, Nev., and the District of Columbia have approved, or are seriously contemplating, a boycott.


AILA, the national organization of attorneys specializing in immigration law, has voted to move its fall conference out of Arizona—and for the cynical among you, let’s be clear that immigration attorneys in private practice do not earn their living representing the persons Arizona fears most, but the educated, highly skilled foreign workers sponsored by thriving corporations.


Last but not least, Arthur Frommer, the great travel guru, is considering a boycott, albeit for different reasons—he has questioned why Arizona’s political protesters feel the need to carry rifles when expressing their opinions.


A boycott may also have the felicitous effect of pushing our national leaders to develop comprehensive immigration reform, much like the bipartisan legislation proposed in 2005 by Arizona’s own Sen. John McCain, a Republican, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.


McCain has now repudiated that effort, perhaps due to his struggle for re-election. In any event, Arizona’s new legislation will not solve at any level what admittedly is a pressing social, economic and political problem, any more than tea parties will refill the state’s coffers when convention, travel and tourism revenues drop, Mexican truckers opt for other border crossings, and the average Mexican, Texan or Californian chooses not to cross the border for a day of retail indulgence.


The state legislators and governor would not have enacted this travesty if they were not convinced this was the will of the Arizona people.


Yet it is clear the bill cannot be implemented without unlawful racial profiling, regardless of the amendment hastily enacted days after the governor signed the bill, stating that “race, color and national origin” may not form the basis for the reasonable suspicion.


If Arizona’s citizens are so convinced that they know an illegal when they see one and that all such persons are responsible for all their social and economic ills, let’s not cross their borders and see how their public experiment evolves.


Ilene Durst is a professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Readers may e-mail her at ilened@tjsl.edu.

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