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Latino and Civil Rights Groups Announce Arizona Boycott

WASHINGTON – The National Council de la Raza along with other national civil rights and labor organizations announced a boycott against Arizona to remain in effect until the state’s “oppressive and odious” immigration law is repealed or Congress passes immigration reform.

 During a press conference at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Latino advocacy organization, NCLR President Janet Murguía said the council is asking all affiliated organizations to cancel major events and conventions in the state as a show of solidarity.

 “Our system is broken, but this Arizona law is not the answer,” Murguía said. “Our immigration system should reflect both our nation’s interests and values.”

 Last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s toughest state immigration enforcement measure directing local police to enforce federal laws and to arrest anyone “reasonably suspected” of being an undocumented immigrant.

 Opponents say the law is “anti-Latino” and “un-American,” claiming  it will lead to the racial discrimination and profiling reminiscent of the Jim Crow era in American history.

 “Indeed these practices go against all the progress that we had made as a nation to ensure equality and freedom from discrimination for all,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The nation has come too far to overcome bigotry to tolerate blatant violations of individual rights.”

 Supporters defend the measure as crucial to ensuring the security of Arizona’s border regions, which have been riddled with violence from an explosive drug war.

 Both anti- and pro-immigration groups are incensed by the lack of federal leadership on the issue, which is national in scope rather than just the border region. Murguía said that, without immigration overhaul, states are free to enact other controversial measures at the expense of the vulnerable undocumented population.

 This week, President Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to pro-immigrant advocates to “begin work” on comprehensive reform, but little progress has been made to initiate a dialogue on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the chief author of comprehensive immigration reform bill H.R. 4321, was arrested in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience with other protesters.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., regarded as the White House’s sole Republican ally on the issue, has criticized the president for pushing a “dead” issue, saying he doubts that it will receive any traction in this congressional session.

 Arizona has long drawn angst from civil rights groups, once refusing to recognize Martin Luther King Holiday Day and prompting the National Football League to relocate the Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe, Ariz., to Pasadena, Calif.  

 Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, said the state has a history of “anti-immigrant sentiment and a continuous pattern of reckless immigration enforcement laws that ignore basic notions of fairness and decency.”

 NCLR is also asking Major League Baseball to relocate its 2011 All-Star game planned for Phoenix, after the player’s association came out against the law. Murguía said 40 percent of MLB players are Latino.

 Civil rights leaders said the law’s passage is galvanizing Latino factions in the country to register to vote and form alliances with other communities of color. So far, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has not defined its position, although several leaders have personally voiced their endorsement of the boycott.

 Before the announcement, several organizations, including the National Urban League and the Puerto Rican Day Parade organizers, canceled trips and events in the Grand Canyon State.

 Pima Community College chancellor Dr. Ray Flores said the boycott will have an impact on Arizona’s tourism industry in the short run but does not stop supporters of the law from doing the opposite.

 “There are some people who have anti-immigrant feelings that may see Arizona as a place they want to live and could attract lightning elements,” said Flores, who leads one of the largest community colleges in the United States. “But I think the organized reaction of people staying away is probably going to overwhelmingly have a more powerful effect than those who lay on the anti-immigrant side.”

 Flores said the debate is mired in polarizing polemics, saying the field has been left open for extreme elements to interject divisive dialogue. Most residents, he said, are rightfully concerned about the border, but he winces at the cavalier attitude taken by some toward civil liberties.

 In a statewide NCLR survey of registered Latino voters, opponents to the law stretch across political parties and generations. About 86 percent of surveyed Latino Democrats, 61 percent of Latino Republicans, and 78 percent of Latino independents oppose the law, and a majority fear racial profiling. However, Arizona Latinos are divided about supporting a boycott that could potentially harm their businesses and communities.

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