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Latino Daily News

Thursday March 24, 2011

Were Arizona Business Leaders Behind the State’s “Time Out” on Anti-Immigrant Legislation?

When Arizona’s Senate rejected five anti-immigrant bills, that included denying citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants to requiring immigration documentation when buying a car, everyone was asking WHAT HAPPENED. 

Arizona had made a name for its self for its immigrant bashing stance and as the cradle of anti-immigrant legislation – and now a “time out”.

Clearly the legal battles and cost that their SB1070 legislation wasn’t a deterrent, since some of the new legislation was authored after SB1070.  Why then?

Could a letter authored by The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce together with 60 CEO’s from Arizona-based businesses been the reason??  Signers of the letter included the CEO of U.S. Airways, Chairman of PetSmart and the CEO of Arizona hotel & lodging.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear President Pearce,

Thank you for your willingness to serve Arizona as a Member of the Arizona State Senate. We, like you, are concerned about the challenges facing our State, particularly the need to address our structural deficit and insure an economic environment that attracts and retains high quality jobs.

While we recognize the desire for states like Arizona to fill the leadership vacuum left by federal inaction on immigration, we strongly believe it is unwise for the Legislature to pass any additional immigration legislation, including any measures leaving the determination of citizenship to the state.

We agree with you that our borders must be protected first, and now. We also believe that market-driven immigration policies can and should be developed by the federal government that will sustain America’s status as a magnet for the world’s most talented and hard-working people and preserve our ability to compete in the global economy.

If the Legislature believes it is worthwhile to debate the question of citizenship, we believe that debate is best held in the U.S. Congress. Already, Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky have introduced legislation aimed at amending the 14th Amendment to deny ‘birthright citizenship’ to those born to individuals living in the U.S. illegally. Iowa Rep. Steve King has introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House.

Arizona’s lawmakers and citizens are right to be concerned about illegal immigration. But we must acknowledge that when Arizona goes it alone on this issue, unintended consequences inevitably occur. Last year, boycotts were called against our state’s business community, adversely impacting our already-struggling economy and costing us jobs. Arizona-based businesses saw contracts cancelled or were turned away from bidding. “Sales outside of the state declined. Even a business which merely had ‘Arizona’ in its name felt the effects of the boycotts, compelling them to launch an educational campaign about their company’s roots in Brooklyn. It is an undeniable fact that each of our companies and our employees were impacted by the boycotts and the coincident negative image.

Tourism, one of our state’s largest industries and employment centers, also suffered from negative perceptions after the passage of SB 1070. The fact Gov. Brewer directed $250,000 to repairing Arizona’s reputation strongly suggests these efforts - whether fair or unfair - are harmful to our image.

Let us be clear: Our dissension with legislative action on the state level does not translate to our being ‘pro-illegal immigration.’ To the contrary, we believe Congress must address border security, identity theft, sound and implementable employment verification systems and policies and the creation of a meaningful guest worker program. Therefore, we urge the Legislature to redirect its energy by joining us in pressing the federal government for meaningful immigration reform. Together, we can get results.