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Villaraigosa backs L.A. boycott of Arizona over immigration crackdown [Updated]

April 29, 2010 |  3:41 pm


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that he supports a boycott of Arizona by the city of Los Angeles, and he called that state's newly passed immigration law "unpatriotic and unconstitutional."

"No person should be treated differently in the eyes of the law," he said at a news conference.

The mayor said boycotts have worked in the past and cited the city's divestiture from South Africa in the 1980s to protest apartheid.

Villaraigosa is the latest of a growing a number of elected officials who have called for boycotts against Arizona in the wake of its new immigration rules.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that she had "deep concerns" with the law and said it could siphon resources needed to target criminals. U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said he was considering "the possibility of a court challenge."

The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona illegally and requires police to check suspects for immigration paperwork. The legislation also bars people from soliciting work or hiring day laborers off the street.

On Tuesday, seven members of the Los Angeles City Council signed a proposal for a boycott, calling for the city to "refrain from conducting business" or participating in conventions in Arizona. Councilman Ed Reyes, who wrote the proposal with Councilwoman Janice Hahn, said he wants city officials to spend the next 90 days assessing the financial relationships that exist between various city departments and businesses based in Arizona.

[Updated at 2:56 p.m.: Villaraigosa appeared alongside Councilmen Reyes and Jose Huizar, who represent some of the city’s most heavily Mexican and Central American neighborhoods. Huizar, who immigrated to this country from Zacatecas, Mexico, as a child in the early 1970s, said the law would make him and others who have traditionally Mexican features a more likely target of Arizona law enforcement officers.

“If you look like me, you should be concerned about traveling to the state of Arizona,” he said.

During a preliminary review of dealings with businesses based in Arizona, City Controller Wendy Greuel identified at least $7.2 million in city contracts with firms from that state. Los Angeles World Airports is compiling a list but indicated that it does business with at least one Arizona-based airline -- US Airways.

Villaraigosa acknowledged that there would be great complexity involved in pursuing an economic boycott. But he said that such an effort would send a message, spurring cities across the state and the nation to follow suit. “The bottom line is, boycotts work,” he said.]

-- David Zahniser 

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Los Angeles Times