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L.A. County boycott of Arizona approved by divided Board of Supervisors

June 1, 2010 |  5:11 pm
Martin Santiago, right, and daughter Lucero, 3, of Van Nuys walk past a mural on Broadway on their way to May Day march for immigrant rights in downtown Los Angeles to protest tough new immigration law in Arizona.

After heated debate, Los Angeles County supervisors voted 3 to 2 today to boycott Arizona in response to the passage of its controversial illegal immigration law.

“This law simply goes too far,” said Gloria Molina, the boycott’s primary sponsor. “A lot of people have pointed out that I am sworn as an L.A. County supervisor to uphold the Constitution. All I can say is that I believe that Arizona’s law is unconstitutional.”

Molina’s boycott was supported by Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas and opposed by Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe.

“We need solutions, not boycotts,” Antonovich said.

Ridley-Thomas was the last to announce his position and was the focus of much of the public comment, drawing dozens of people on both sides of the issue.

Among the speakers against the boycott were the family members of Jamiel Shaw II, a football player who was recruited by Stanford and Rutgers before he was gunned down in 2008, allegedly by Pedro Espinoza. A member of the 18th Street gang in the U.S. illegally, prosecutors say, Espinoza had been released from jail a day before the shooting after serving time for an earlier offense.

Molina first proposed suspending county-funded travel to Arizona unless the county’s chief executive determines it would seriously harm county interests.

The boycott also calls for a divestiture of Arizona’s state and municipal bonds by the county’s pension fund. The county’s auditor-controller estimated that the county has spent about $122 million over the past five years on Arizona goods and services.  Treasurer-Tax Collector Mark Saladino said the county had no commercial paper or investments that would be affected by the boycott.

The Arizona law requires police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers. Top U.S. Justice Department officials have drafted a legal challenge asserting that Arizona's law is unconstitutional because it impinges on the federal government's authority to police the nation's borders.

-- Garrett Therolf at the L.A. County Hall of Administration

Photo: Immigration protesters after a May Day march in downtown L.A. Times file