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Arizona Faces Travel Bans in Response to Controversial New Immigration Law

At least 17 cities across the nation have passed official travel boycotts to Arizona in response to a tough new illegal immigration bill passed in the state in April. Arizona Senate Bill 1070 gives local authorities the right to question and request proof of immigration status from “suspicious” individuals. Opponents believe the bill supports racial profiling, infringes on civil rights and is unconstitutional.

In an official statement, Governor Jan Brewer said, “I’ve decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona.” Brewer cites spreading violence from Mexico and continued federal inaction as reasons for her action.

According to the industry publication Meetings and Conventions, Arizona businesses that rely on tourism fear they will be hard hit by negative public reaction to the bill. Within weeks of the law’s passage, the New York Daily News reported that four major events had been cancelled in Phoenix and 23 statewide. The bill is expected to cost the city of Phoenix alone at least $90 million, according to estimates by city officials. Phoenix is the slated location for the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but that may be in jeopardy too, as the list of protesters against the venue grows. Opponents include the State Senate of California, which is set to vote on a statewide resolution discouraging travel to Arizona as well as relocation of the All-Star Game.

The Arizona music scene also faces repercussions of SB1070. The hip-hop band Cypress Hill is just one of the many groups who have canceled their Arizona concert dates in reaction to the law. Zack de la Rocha, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, formed The Sound Strike, an open boycott for musicians against Arizona until the law is repealed.

Oakland, California, is one of many cities to ban travel to Arizona. Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner told the New York Daily News, “We don’t want to hurt Arizona, but we don’t want this kind of law to continue.”

“This complex issue [of immigration] should be resolved on the merits of various proposals, not by holding an industry and its 300,000 employees hostage to politics,” Roger Dow, CEO and President of the US Travel Association, a non-profit representing all components of the travel industry, said in a statement calling for a discontinuation of travel bans to Arizona.

Boycotts aside, it may be too late to dispel the fear the passage of SB1070 has instilled in potential visitors to Arizona. According to Bnet Travel online, Joy Mann, a past visitor to the Arizona Inn in Tucson, wrote in an email, “This is a very scary situation that the police can now just come up to you for no reason and ask for papers. My son is a construction worker and is very suntanned. I cannot ask him to join us there now, as I would fear for him.”

In a rare role reversal, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry has issued a travel advisory to its citizens against Arizona, with the warning, “It must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time.” Mexico typically provides Arizona’s largest single source of international visitors, 3.8 million in 2008.

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