Arizona Leaders Lament As State’s Image Takes Beating With New Immigration Law

Peter Slevin, Washington Post, June 7, 2010;

When state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) travels outside Arizona, she hears the same question over and over: “What’s wrong with your state?” She notes Arizona’s new immigration law, its ban on ethnic studies classes and its prohibition on creating animal-human hybrids.

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Sinema is a liberal Democrat in a largely Republican state, but her sense of disheartenment is shared across party lines. Dean Martin, state treasurer and conservative GOP candidate for governor, said national opinion on Arizona is “polarized. That’s counterproductive.”

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Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has appointed a committee and allocated $250,000 to re-brand the state’s image, while 13 Arizona chamber of commerce executives appealed to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to keep the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix after he faced pressure to change locations. {snip}

{snip} Phoenix City Hall calculates that Arizona has lost nearly $100 million in convention commitments. Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of the immigration law are taking to the streets weekly.

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Natividad Lopez Rubio, known as “Natty,” said his Nogales-to-Phoenix shuttle business is suffering. A few months ago, his minivans made 14 round trips a day and were often full. Now, he is lucky to make five trips with a few passengers in each.

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Opponents of the immigration law may be frustrated, but “boycotts are absolutely the wrong way to go,” said Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the state chamber of commerce. Boycotts hurt Arizonans, “particularly in the tourist industry, who had nothing to do with the law.”

Taylor is especially annoyed with state and local governments that are canceling deals with Arizona businesses or calling on others to do so. “If they were truly invested in the immigration issue,” he said, “they’d be pressing Washington for comprehensive immigration reform.”

The last time Arizona’s image suffered such a blow was in the 1980s, when many Republicans, including then-U.S. Rep. John McCain, opposed a national holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Woods [Grant Woods], the former attorney general, said the moment inspired his winning campaign as a GOP promoter of civil rights. This time, he is counting on “intelligent, compassionate people from all sides” to find a compromise.

“There are some states that are pretty much lily-white. That’s not our state,” Woods said. “To be an Arizonan is to be a part of Mexico. It’s to be a part of the various Native American tribes. That’s part of our culture, the diversity. I think the people’s hearts are there, but the leaders don’t always respect that.”

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