Sunday, May 2, 2010

Immigration law fallout ripples through Arizona economy

by Betty Beard - May. 2, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Nationwide reaction to Arizona's new immigration law has been fast and furious in its first week, and fallout from the controversy ultimately could hit a broad range of the state's businesses.

The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association said Friday that 19 meetings representing 15,000 room nights have been canceled because of the immigration law.

A growing number of cities and other entities are banning or considering banning business with the state, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Oakland, West Hollywood, St. Paul and a Denver school district.

It has been suggested that the July 12, 2011, Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Chase Field be moved to another city in protest, and the political parties may discount the area for their 2012 conventions.

Convention and tourism-related businesses have been the first to sense a pullback in business, but restaurants, retailers, health-care, real-estate and entertainment sectors all could be affected. Arizona-based companies with a nationwide presence, such as US Airways, PetSmart, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and the University of Phoenix, could be targeted.

Angel Cabrera, president of Glendale's Thunderbird School of Global Management, said he worries about the half of his students who come from other countries and how they will be treated. He has received calls from counterparts at Tecnológico de Monterrey, a Mexican business school that partners with Thunderbird in a global MBA program, saying they are concerned their students won't feel welcome.

It's too early to say whether the backlash will wither or continue for years, as it did two decades ago after Arizona failed to adopt a paid holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Plus, legal challenges could arise before the law takes effect in July.

In the midst of the debate, some groups are fighting back.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, on Friday called for the Arizona travel boycotts to stop and urged Washington lawmakers to address immigration.

"Immigration reform is an important and sensitive topic for Arizona and the country at large," he said. "This complex issue should be resolved on the merits of various proposals, not by holding an industry and its 300,000 employees hostage to politics."

In an informal online poll, readers said by a 2-1 margin that the law would not hurt the state's economy.

"I don't think it will cause that much of a difference," Phoenix resident Frank Harrison said. "Maybe a bump or two, but we have had issues like this before with MLK. It'll hit the press and die out."

Logan Arachambault, a visitor from Portland, Ore., said, "I really don't think it is going to have an impact at all."

Others say the state will be deeply damaged.

"I think it's going to be horrible," said Phillip Estrada of Scottsdale.

Joan Edwards, a Phoenix resident who opposes the law, said, "I hope it impacts us. I hope the rest of the country makes a statement about it."

Even the name "Arizona" has been tarnished. Social-media users urged a boycott of Arizona-brand teas until the manufacturer noted that the beverages are made in New York.

Immigration law fallout ripples through Arizona economy

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