LA County to boycott Arizona over immigration law

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AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, president and founder of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny, middle, protests against Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' vote, as he is asked to leave the hall by Los Angeles Sheriffs, after Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the city in its economic boycott of Arizona over its SB 1070 law targeting illegal immigrants, on Tuesday, Jun 1, 2010, in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 today to join in the economic boycott against Arizona to protest the state's new law targeting illegal immigration.

The motion, authored by Supervisor Gloria Molina and co-sponsored by Zev Yaroslavsky, contends that the Arizona law "violates core American civil rights and civil liberties, including the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expressive activity, the Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and the Equal Protection Clause guarantee of
equal protection under the law.''

The law -- Senate Bill 1070, which has not yet gone into effect -- empowers local law enforcement in Arizona to check the immigration status of suspects they have stopped for other reasons if there is a reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally. It specifically bars police from racial profiling.

Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe said last week they would oppose the boycott, leaving the deciding vote with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who remained silent on the issue until today, when he supported the idea.

Ridley-Thomas said he felt his vote was "consistent with years of work ... on the matter of civil rights."

After the vote some people in the audience loudly criticized him, but Ridley-Thomas said his vote was "from a position of strength, not weakness.''

More than 60 people spoke on both sides of the issue and Molina repeatedly had to ask the gallery to stop applauding or booing comments. Among those in attendance were relatives of Jamiel Shaw II, a high school football star who was shot to death in Arlington Heights in 2008. Pedro Espinoza, an
illegal immigrant and alleged gang member, has been charged with the killing and is awaiting trial.

"My son would be alive right now if the Arizona law was in effect in California," said Shaw's father. "Mark Ridley-Thomas is in my neighborhood. He knows in the black community that helped him get elected, we're not for (the boycott).''

Shaw was later removed from the board room, unable to contain his emotions. One of Shaw's aunts said Antonovich had asked the family to appear.

The motion by Molina and Yaroslavsky, while conceding that the national immigration system is "broken,'' contends the Arizona law "goes too far and should be strongly condemned and universally rejected.''

"It sends a strong message to all immigrants to avoid contact with any law enforcement officer, aggressively discouraging witnesses and victims from reporting crimes and making the entire community less safe,'' according to the motion. ``Also, it diverts scarce resources away from law enforcement. It deters individuals from seeking and obtaining needed emergency and medical
care, including services to screen and treat communicable diseases.

"As stewards of the resources generated by all of our residents, it is the prerogative of this board to direct our county resources, business practices and investments in ways that do not directly or indirectly provide practical support for this law,'' the motion states.

Knabe said he agreed that the federal immigration system is broken, but said ``to simply call for a boycott of an entire state is a rash and misguided reaction to what they view as a bad law.''

"This motion will not put one more sheriff's deputy or firefighter on the street or keep open one more library, park or health clinic,'' Knabe said.

"That is our elected responsibility -- not to tell Arizona or any other state how to run their government. I would not want them to tell us how to run Los Angeles County.''

Antonovich, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, called the boycott idea ``stupid'' last week. Today, he was more measured, saying, ``What we need are solutions, not boycotts,'' and, "We cannot pick and choose'' what federal laws to enforce.

"The state of Arizona has said out loud that the emperor has no clothes,'' said Antonovich, citing the failure of the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

The motion directs the county's chief executive officer to send a letter to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and other state leaders calling for the repeal of the law; suspend all travel to the state for county business unless the travel is considered imperative; ban county investments in Arizona securities such as state or municipal bonds; and review all contracts with Arizona-based or headquartered companies and report on how those contracts can be terminated.

It also prevents county departments from entering into any new or amended contracts to purchase goods or services from any company based or headquartered in Arizona.

"I hope that we never have to implement it,'' Yaroslavsky said, expressing hope that the Arizona law is overturned before it takes effect.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 on May 12, with Councilman Greig Smith dissenting, to approve an economic boycott of Arizona in hopes of pressuring the state into repealing Senate Bill 1070.

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