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L.A. council members may exempt themselves from Arizona boycott

October 14, 2011 |  5:59 pm

Los Angeles Councilman Ed Reyes
Eighteen months after they agreed to boycott Arizona over its handling of immigration enforcement, members of the Los Angeles City Council could sidestep the business ban in a new and dramatic fashion -- by traveling to a conference in Phoenix.

Councilman Ed Reyes, who co-authored the boycott in May 2010, introduced a motion Friday that would suspend the travel ban next month so he and his colleagues can attend the Congress of Cities & Exposition, a yearly event staged by the National League of Cities.

The exemption, if approved by Reyes’ colleagues on Tuesday, would allow council members to dine in Arizona restaurants, hobnob in Arizona watering holes and sleep in Arizona hotels – all activities that were discouraged as part of the city’s protest of Senate Bill 1070, a law passed last year to crack down on illegal immigration.

Reyes, whose Eastside district has a high concentration of Mexican and Central American immigrants, said he supported the idea of having the conference in Phoenix after a lengthy debate by the league’s board of directors, where he was a member last year. Reyes said he was swayed in part by the plan to weave the topic of immigration -- and the impacts of crackdowns on undocumented residents -– into the conference's workshops and sessions.

“We have an opportunity to educate and inform other cities on how punitive this [law] is to the economy and Americans,” said Reyes, the son of a Mexican immigrant. “So I don’t mind the political complexity of it -- and the political naysayers who would label me as not being focused. In fact, I’m very focused on trying to address this injustice.”

On its website, the National League of Cities said its conference is being staged in Arizona to support Phoenix and other cities in the state, some of which have taken actions to oppose SB 1070. That law required police to check the status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally – a provision that was struck down in federal court. That decision was upheld in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Opponents of the law have said that it would promote discrimination based on skin color. Supporters of the law disagreed and said stronger measures are needed to secure the nation’s borders.

L.A.’s boycott calls on city departments to suspend all travel to Arizona unless special circumstances exist showing that doing so could “seriously harm city interests.” It also calls for city agencies to stop purchasing goods from Arizona companies “to the extent practicable.”

Since the ban was approved, the council  has continued to maintain tens of millions of dollars in contracts with companies in Arizona, suspending its ban to purchase key products and services. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Police Department abandoned a plan last year to send a team of helicopter pilots to an Arizona training conference.

That event was also held in Phoenix.

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- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes meets with supporters after a vote last year to ban most city travel to Arizona and future contracts with companies in that state. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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