The calls for a boycott of the Grand Canyon State over the passage of a stringent illegal immigration enforcement law may be backfiring on the groups opposed to Arizona’s actions.
Like the outrageous and intentional misinterpretations of the law, SB 1070, the boycott is all hype and no substance. The boycott has impacted some businesses here negatively, but supporters of the law are flocking to Arizona to counter the financial impact.
“There are no negative effects I can quantify,” said Tony Venuti, publisher of AZ Tourist News and webmaster of a pro-Arizona business site. “There have been cancelations caused by the boycotts, but for every cancellation, four or five (reservations) are coming in.”
Tourism has not dropped by the amount hoped for by boycotters like Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.). Grijalva got a boost among his Hispanic supporters, a minority voting bloc in the state, but when re-election time comes, he is likely to face a backlash from Arizona voters who view his action as contrary to his oath of office.
Venuti said the boycott and the SB 1070 controversy is getting the kind of attention that businesses are able to take advantage of by making it a marketing opportunity for the state.
More tourism businesses are reporting to Venuti that they are seeing increased business that they attribute to the reaction against the boycott calls. Venuti says the news coverage of the immigration enforcement law is skewed to represent the 30% nay-saying minority opposed to the law, and largely ignoring the viewpoint of an overwhelming number of supporters.
“The boycotters are like a bully, but the good people of this country aren’t going to stand by and let this happen,” Venuti said. “Let’s roll for Arizona, like the heroes of 9-11did on that airplane over Pennsylvania.”
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has declined to consider pulling the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona, ignoring a “distressed” and “disappointed” New York Rep. Jose E. Serrano who introduced a House resolution requesting the game be moved. The MLB Players Association, acting independently, called for repeal of SB 1070, saying it could impact hundreds of baseball players who are citizens of other countries.
Phoenix Deputy City Manager David Krietor estimated in May that the city could lose $90 million over the next five years from hotel and convention losses. Statewide, Arizona’s tourism business and industries predicted up to $100 million in lost revenues this year. The exact numbers are hard to nail down because the boycott’s true impact is difficult to measure and the actual number of illegals receiving state benefits and education are unknown.
Arizona has spent more than $2 billion for social services, education, law enforcement and prosecutions related to illegal immigrants and their families over the past few years. State officials predict that the growing costs may top $1 billion for 2010.
There is no dispute that the numbers of Mexican nationals crossing the border to shop in the United States are down drastically since the law was signed. Businesses near the border seem to be seeing a decline in sales.
A Mexican Consulate survey for 2008 concluded that visitors spent $2.7 billion in Arizona and $2.4 million daily in Pima County alone, where Tucson is located. Hundreds of American businesses along the border are reporting sales declines of 20% to 80% over previous years. The El Con Mall in Tucson, a popular shopping destination for Mexican nationals attributes 60% of past mall sales are to Mexicans.
“We don’t know how many people won’t come here because they saw CNN or whatever and decided not to come to Arizona. That would be almost impossible to measure,” said Felipe Garcia, vice president of community affairs and Mexico marketing with Tucson’s visitor’s bureau. “We’re seeing other groups very interested, they are showing stronger support to come here. That boycott didn’t work very well,”
Nogales, Mexico, a border town where Americans cross over to shop has gone from a bustling tourist attraction to a town where many businesses are closing their doors early because of the lack of customers. Arizonans and out-of-state tourists are avoiding Nogales because of fear over the drug violence and retaliation against Americans.
The National Council of La Raza’s website promoting boycotts and protests portrays the majority of Americans and Arizonans who support SB 1070 as “extremists,” who are “defining the debate on immigration, and the portrayal of Hispanic Americans, at every level.” La Raza members openly support La Reconquista, a racist movement to reclaim Southwestern U.S. territory and drive non-Hispanics out.
Several groups against the new law are circulating petitions for a voter initiative on SB 1070, but with the deadline for filing coming one day before the law is to go into effect July 29, the organizers are far short of the required number of signatures and running out of time.
A group of buycotters and Tea Party activists recently caravanned in from Florida and Illinois to join several hundred local residents for a pro-Arizona rally in Wesley Bolin Plaza on the Capitol grounds. Demonstrations, both for and against, have taken place weekly in Phoenix. The numbers attending have dropped radically from thousands to hundreds with summer’s triple-digit temperatures. No major protests are planned until SB 1070 goes into effect at the end of July.
San Diego, which passed a non-binding city council condemnation of SB 1070, was removed from Gilbert resident Brett Scott’s reverse boycott list (www.azfightsback.com) after San Diego tourism officials lobbied to be removed from the list. Concerned about the financial loss of thousands of Arizonans who refuse to travel to the city’s beaches seeking respite from the baking summer heat at home, San Diego County hotelier Robert Rauch called San Diego’s action “milder” than Los Angeles and other municipalities boycotts. Dozens of “Zonies,” as they are called, who regularly made summer visits to California plan to go elsewhere or stay-cation at home.
SB 1070’s passage is having both positive and negative effects on the state, but the majority of Arizonans who support the law are imposing their own negative economic impact on the cities who wanted to harm Arizona/
For more information on the boycotts and buycotts, including regularly updated lists of cities, states and businesses in support and opposed to SB 1070, visit http://www.buycottarizona.com/ and http://arizonabuycott.com/