Latino groups call off economic boycott in Arizona

Hundreds of activists, supporters of illegal immigrants and members of the Latino community rally against a new Arizona law in Union Square on May Day on May 1, 2010 in New York City.

Kai Ryssdal: An economic boycott against Arizona that's been going on for almost a year and a half is basically over. The protests were in response to the state's tough anti-immigration legislation.

This weekend, several of the main groups involved declared victory, while at the same time admitting their campaign had hurt some of the workers it was meant to help.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has more.


Jeff Tyler: Latino business leaders joined the mayor of Phoenix in pushing to end the boycott. James Garcia represents a statewide coalition that includes business owners, Latino community groups and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

James Garcia: The ending of the boycott is significant because it does help the economy when it needs help the most.

The National Council of La Raza was the main group behind the boycott. Spokeswoman Clarissa Martinez says, from the beginning, the organization was concerned about the impact on ordinary workers.

Clarissa Martinez: We consulted with groups on the ground because we know that boycotts are a blunt instrument.

Hispanic workers were willing to endure some economic pain for the sake of the cause. But just how successful was the boycott? Five states have enacted tough immigration laws similar to Arizona's.

But Martinez says it could have been much worse.

Martinez: The anticipation in several quarters was that this was going to spread like wildfire. And in reality, what we have seen is over 26 states in the last two legislative sessions rejecting this kind of approach.

The Center for American Progress estimates the boycott cost Arizona around $500 million. That covers canceled conventions, lost tax revenues and lower economic output.

So far, Arizona's immigration bill has been stuck in the courts. Hispanic advocates say that if the bill moves forward again, they will bring the boycott back.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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