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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Groups Urge Oregonians, Others to Bypass AZ

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR
April 27, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - This could be the year to visit Hells Canyon instead of the Grand Canyon, depending on one's political point of view. Some advocates of immigration reform are asking people to leave Arizona out of their summer vacation plans, to protest its tough new state law on immigration.

Here in Oregon and around the country, the immigrant community is concerned about the law, which allows police to detain people suspected of being illegal immigrants, and requires immigrants to carry documentation of their status.

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration for the National Council of La Raza, says states are making these types of changes because Congress is dragging its feet – although in her view, public sentiment about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is clear.

"Americans want people to follow the rules and believe that getting undocumented immigrants in the system means that they'll be playing by the same rules as everybody else, and their employers will be playing by the same rules as everyone else."

CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights coalition, says the Arizona law makes it easier to harass and discriminate against anyone who is not white; Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, calls it "an important tool in a crisis the federal government has refused to fix."

When questioned on Monday, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, wouldn't go so far as to declare an out-and-out boycott of Arizona tourism, but he says one of the major Spanish-language newspapers in the country has already suggested it.

"You know, La Opinion has called for a boycott; the American Immigration Lawyers Association has pulled their conference, their convention out of Arizona. It's clear that there is a consequence already to the State of Arizona, for this legislation."

In Arizona, tourism is worth over $19 billion a year; that's more than twice what Oregon tourism brings in.

Locally, immigrants' rights groups are expecting the controversy to boost the turnout for this week's annual International Workers Day event on Saturday, May 1, at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.

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