Mexican shoppers steering clear of Arizona malls

A fence separates the cities of Nogales, Arizona, left, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, right.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: The controversy over Arizona's tough new immigration law widens. We have told you about the backlash against Arizona business and tourism from inside the U.S. Now some Mexican consumers are also boycotting. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.


Jeff Tyler: Before the controversy over this new law, the Tucson Mall was popular with Mexican tourists. Margie McCoy is a stylist with the hair salon Shear Performance:

Margie McCoy: Hardly any Mexican nationals in the mall. It's affected us a lot.

How much is business down?

McCory: You talking about a big percentage, maybe 30 percent or 40 percent.

In the parking lot, I spoke with Alejandra Padilla from the Mexican state of Sonora. Padilla and her mom came to Tucson to visit relatives. On such trips, the mall has always been a regular stop.

Alejandra Padilla: But we don't plan on coming anymore.

Arizona's new law gives police more authority to arrest undocumented immigrants. Proponents say the law does not single out any specific group. But Padilla thinks it will indiscriminately target all Hispanics.

Padilla: If you seem dark, they're just going to stop you anyways. It's like racial profiling.

But many Mexican consumers don't have lots of shopping options back home. One woman gave only her first name: Lupita. She drove for eight hours to shop here for three days. She says lots of Mexican families come to Arizona for bi-annual shopping sprees.

Lupita (voice of interpreter): When families come here, they shop for summer or buy stuff for winter. All the necessities. Imagine how much each family spends here on clothes and supplies.

She plans to spend about $2,000. That kind of bulk shopping is common in Tucson and in the border city of Nogales. Olivia Ainza-Kramer is president of the Nogales Chamber of Commerce. She says Mexican consumers used to spend money all over town.

Olivia Ainza-Kramer: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, JC Penny's. And then, they go and see a doctor. They go to a restaurant. They go and spend money on gas. So all that, they're creating employment for different sectors of commerce.

Kramer says the sharp decline in Mexican visitors hurts businesses and the city, since Nogales collects 60 percent of its sales tax from cross-border consumers.

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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