San Francisco’s supervisors are calling for a sweeping boycott of Arizona in the wake of that state’s harsh new law aimed at illegal immigrants, but they haven’t convinced Mayor Gavin Newsom.
A resolution that will go before the board today calls for San Francisco to end any and all contracts with Arizona-based companies and to stop doing business with the state.
“We want to send a message,” Supervisor David Campos told a rally on the steps of City Hall Monday morning. “There are consequences when you target a whole people.”
Immigration should be treated “not as a police enforcement issue, but as a human rights issue, as a social issue,” Supervisor John Avalos added. “We want to make sure the voice of San Francisco is well heard.”
But Newsom argued that a total boycott of Arizona businesses could bring the city a wide range of problems that haven’t even been considered.
“The notion of boycotting a state and every business that does business in the state is an extraordinarily complicated matter,” he warned.
Even if the resolution is approved by the board, it’s unclear what would have to be done before the boycott could begin to take effect.
On Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law making it a crime for an immigrant to be in the state without proof of legal residency and requiring police to seek out and detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
The law, which will take effect this summer, will certainly face legal challenges. President Obama has called the effort “misguided” and ordered the Justice Department to determine whether the new law violates civil rights.
Newsom blasted Arizona’s new immigration law as “inexcusable” and “unacceptable.”
“What happened in Arizona is … un-American,” the mayor said. “The idea that people, based on their race or ethnicity, can be pulled over or stopped and someone asks for their papers reminds me of something I read … happening overseas.”
But that doesn’t take away the unintended consequences of any boycott, he added.
Campos said he is confident there are enough votes on the board to approve the boycott resolution today, but admitted that the wording of the resolution itself is still “a work in progress,” and he is unsure of how the boycott would affect San Francisco. Even if it passes, plenty more will have to be done before a boycott actually begins.
The resolution, he said, “will show the intent of the board and send a message to city agencies that they should take inventory of their contracts with Arizona and figure out a way, where appropriate, to end them.”
Herrera leads the call
City Attorney Dennis Herrera led the call for a wide-ranging boycott of Arizona and pledged to have attorneys in his office work with the city to identify contracts with Arizona companies and help break those contracts where possible.
Herrera could have his hands full with boycott-based legal problems, Newsom suggested.
Would existing city contracts with Arizona-based companies be nullified, or simply new ones directed elsewhere, the mayor asked. Would it apply to multinational companies that do business in Arizona and many other states? Would the city’s retirement system have to divest interests in certain companies? What about flights from San Francisco International Airport to Arizona cities?
“I’m not sure those things were considered,” Newsom said.
But Herrera and a majority of the supervisors are convinced a boycott is the proper action for the city to take until the “unjust law is repealed or invalidated,” Herrera said in a statement.
Calls for reform
But for many of those at Monday’s rally, the immigration battle is being fought much closer to home than Arizona. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has ordered ABM Janitorial Services to verify the immigration status of its more than 1,000 employees in San Francisco, which could cost many undocumented workers their jobs.
Many of the 75 or so people listening to the speakers were members of SEIU Local 87, which represents janitors in the city.
Immigration enforcement should be part of an overall immigration reform proposal that provides workers with a path to citizenship, said Ana Perez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center and rally organizer. At their meeting today, the Board of Supervisors also will consider a resolution condemning federal audits, arguing that they are designed to force local employers to fire undocumented workers.
The resolution encourages Congress and the president to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill “that prioritizes keeping families together, upholding civil and human rights and promoting economic justice.”