Hispanic Advocates End Arizona Meetings Boycott

The National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group, will no longer discourage groups from meeting in Arizona, it announced yesterday.

La Raza, which is based in Washington, D.C., began boycotting the Grand Canyon State in May 2010, when Arizona's infamous anti-immigration bill — Arizona SB 1070 — became law. The law makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying required documentation and allows state law enforcement officers to determine an individual's immigration status during a "lawful stop, detention or arrest" when they suspect someone is an illegal alien.

La Raza was one of several organizations nationwide that boycotted Arizona because of the law, arguing that it unfairly targeted Hispanics and condoned racial profiling. Joined by two other groups, the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights and the Asian American Justice Center, it announced its decision to end the 16-month boycott in a letter to the Real Arizona Coalition, a group of Arizona businesses, interfaith groups and community leadership organizations — including the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau — that had asked for the boycott to be lifted. It said the boycott was no longer necessary because it had successfully discouraged other states from enacting similar laws and had imposed a hardship on the workers, businesses and organizations it aimed to help.

"We understand and appreciate the reasons why you believe the boycott should end," La Raza wrote in its letter to the Real Arizona Coalition. "In that vein, we are also aware of the hardship it has imposed on many of the workers, businesses and organizations whose interests we seek to advance. We are hopeful that the more respectful and civil tone that you and many others have worked so hard to establish in recent months will continue.

In that spirit, effective immediately, our three organizations will suspend the boycott and cease all efforts to discourage conventions or meetings in Arizona, or to discourage our partners from participating in such meetings. In addition, we will communicate our decision to our allies and partners who supported the boycott in the hope that they will join us."

The Greater Phoenix CVB issued the following statement in response to La Raza's decision:

"The lifting of the boycott is clearly a step in the right direction. It acknowledges that illegal immigration is not just an Arizona issue but a national one, and it makes it easier for our community to get back to the business of booking conventions."

According to a study by the Center for American Progress, it's estimated that SB 1070 boycotts cost Arizona at least $140 million over a three-year period from cancelled conventions, and potentially up to $750 million in total economic losses.