Tacoma City Council is considering a boycott of Arizona in protest of a controversial law recently signed by Governor Jan Brewer. The law directs police officers to inquire about the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally. The law has sparked protests around the nation.
Councilmember Lauren Walker introduced the boycott idea during the study session on May 11. Under the proposal, the city could not conduct business with companies based in Arizona and city staff would not attend conferences there.
Walker said the Arizona law violates the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and would likely result in racial profiling. Walker said passing the resolution would send a message that Tacoma is a leader among Washington cities in standing up for civil rights.
Councilmember Ryan Mello said that when the legislation was being considered, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Phoenix called for a boycott of conventions in the state if the legislation indeed became law.
Mello said he has heard from a number of constituents urging the council to take a stand on the issue. “It is a simple statement to send to our citizens that racially profiling will not be tolerated,” he said.
Councilmember Spiro Manthou said he is uncomfortable with a boycott because it would target businesses in Arizona for an action taken by the state government. He fears businesses and governments in Arizona might reciprocate.
Councilmember David Boe said he is uncomfortable with the idea because of uncertainty of the implications.
“This has potential consequences we may not understand.”
Mayor Marilyn Strickland said she needs more time to think about the proposal. She noted a boycott could hurt the hospitality sector in Arizona and the working-class people who work in hotels and restaurants. “We might end up hurting the people we are trying to help,” she said. “I have to look at the big picture.”
Councilmember Joe Lonergan suggested issuing a proclamation stating that racial profiling would not be allowed in Tacoma. He feels a boycott would unfairly target businesses, rather than the state government that enacted the law. “We can pressure the state legislature without hurting businesses in Phoenix.”
Councilmember Marty Campbell mentioned the United States boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow in 1980, done in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The action did not force the Soviets out and simply punished American athletes, according to Campbell.
He expressed hesitation about starting a “trade war” with Arizona that could escalate in ways the council may not foresee now. Tacoma businesses could end up not landing contracts in Arizona, he noted.
Councilmember Jake Fey said the law passed in Arizona was done out of frustration with the federal government not dealing with its responsibilities to properly control immigration. “This proves the point of how useless the federal government can be sometimes.”