Polls say a plurality of Arizonans support the passage of SB1070, Arizona’s racial-profiling law, but I didn’t find them during a recent long weekend in Tucson. Instead, I found the other Arizona. Frank Stockton was typical, “I don’t know what they’re up to up there [at the state capital.] Mexico has always been a pretty good friend to Arizona.”
Tucson is the closest city to the big border town of Nogales Arizona, the other half of which is Nogales, Mexico. The location is right in the path of illegal workers coming to the US, a group that has been declining since 2008.
The day before I arrived, on May 5, 7,000 protesters had gathered to oppose the new law. Just a day later, life in Tucson seemed to be going on pretty much as usual. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Traditionally, Tucson has always been more activist about music than about government. (Just today, however, Erykah Badu and Cypress Hill cancelled planned concerts over the issue.)
Maybe it was because the half Mexican-American city was used to political grandstanding from up north. Or maybe it was because local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, had already said he didn’t intend to enforce the law. But Lyn Southerland told me that “Cinco de Mayo crowds” had been “smaller around town,” which she attributed to the chilling effect of the new law.
There were afternoon protests by students at Tucson high schools. But the kids were protesting the other nutty idea — ending Tucson’s successful Mexican-American cultural education programs. That idea has since become law too.
When you ask Tucsonans what they think about SB1070, they know the law by number, and they all seem to have an opinion. Only one person said he didn’t really know anything about it, but he seemed to be drunk. Tina, a bartender at Che’s Lounge (maybe she was responsible for the guy who knew nothing) expressed the most common sentiment, “That’s the dumbest shit law I ever heard of,” she said.
Enrique Alcantar, a Tucson chef, lamented the idea of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva’s would call for boycotts, “I don’t support the law, but calling for boycotts of his own state? Who does he think the boycott is gonna hurt. It’ll be the same people people targeted by the law.”
That said, the boycott seems to be working. The Arizona Republic reports that Phoenix alone may lose $90 million in convention and visitor revenue. According to Tucson Weekly, Tucson took a $6 million hit in just the week after the law was signed. Alcantar is right — the food, beverage and hospitality industries are poised to be hard hit by the boycott. Conventions are booked years in advance. The damage will linger years after the law is overturned or repealed.
Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon calls it “an economic crisis.” And it is worth noting that Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff – three of Arizona’s biggest cities – are all suing to have the law overturned.
Predictably, Governor Jan Brewer remained stunningly tone deaf. In announcing a task force to blunt the momentum of the boycott, she noted that tourists shouldn’t boycott Arizona. After all, as she put it, “For those people flying in, they already have that identification, most of them, when they get on the plane.”
No kidding. She really said that.