In the weeks since it passed a controversial immigration law, Arizona has been the subject of a furious war of words -- and now the attacks have begun to hit it in the wallet as cities across the country are instituting economic sanctions against the state. The latest move comes from Los Angeles, where the city council voted on Wednesday to slash economic ties with Arizona businesses.
Los Angeles's resolution, which is now going to the City's mayor, passed the council by a vote of 13 to 1. It seeks to cut most official travel to the state, and instructs the city's attorney to review the more than $58 million in contracts that LA has with Arizona-based companies. In cases where they can be canceled without "significant economic cost," the city plans to seek alternate vendors.
Cities Across the U.S. Also Mulling Boycotts
Similar resolutions have also been proposed or enacted in other California cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, and West Hollywood. San Jose is considering a boycott, while San Diego passed a non-binding resolution criticizing the new Arizona law. Outside California, the movement is also gaining momentum: Boston was among the first cities to cut travel and contracts with Arizona, and Austin, Texas, is considering a similar move.
On the other end of the political spectrum, the Arizona Republic reports that legislators in nine other states -- Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Maryland and Ohio -- are considering legislation that mirrors its new immigration law. Yet, while conservative sweetheart Sarah Palin has endorsed the law, the Republican party as a whole seems to be distancing itself from Arizona. In an announcement earlier this morning, the GOP chose Tampa instead of Phoenix as the site of its 2012 convention.
Phoenix could have used the money: according to recent estimates, the immigration law may cost the city up to $90 million in hotel and convention center business over the next five years. This attack on business interests already seems to be affecting loyalty within the state: last week, Tucson and Flagstaff both decided to sue the state, noting the high cost of enforcing the new law and its brutal effect upon tourism.
Irreparable Harm to Arizona's Reputation?
As bad as the financial hit may be, the cost to the state's reputation is almost immeasurable. While some critics of the new law predictably went straight for the jugular with comparisons to the Holocaust and World War II-era Japanese internment, even comparatively measured responses were brutal. West Hollywood, one of the first cities to launch a boycott, likened Arizona's immigration law to statutes in Apartheid-era South Africa, providing a moral and economic precedent for the boycotts.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seems eager to add fuel to the fire. On Tuesday, she signed HB 2281 into law, banning classes that "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."
Critics of HB 2281 see its vague wording as a wide-ranging justification for destroying ethnic studies programs in Arizona's public schools. While horrifying to the state's educators, this move should be particularly worrisome to its business interests: Arizona's fraught relationship with its minority groups seems increasingly likely to destroy not only its reputation, but also its economy.
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