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L.A. council bans most official travel to Arizona

Members, arguing that the new immigration law could lead to racial profiling, also vote to bar future city contracts with companies in that state.

May 13, 2010|By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council, protesting Arizona's tough crackdown on illegal immigration, voted Wednesday to ban most city travel to Arizona and future contracts with companies in that state.

Council members argued that a new Arizona law, which will make it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people they stop are in the country illegally, would lead to racial profiling and discrimination. The law takes effect July 23.

During a morning-long debate on the resolution, council members compared Arizona's action to those of Nazi Germany and the beginning of the Holocaust, as well as the internment and deportation of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"Los Angeles is the second-largest city in this country, an immigrant city, an international city. It needs to have its voice heard," said Councilman Ed Reyes, one of the resolution's sponsors. "As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport. If I come across an officer who's having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be … deported, no questions asked. That is not American."

The action was approved 13 to 1, with Councilman Greig Smith casting the dissenting vote. Smith did not comment.

The council also called on the city attorney's office to review all of the city's $58 million in existing contracts with Arizona companies to determine which can be canceled.

The resolution, which now heads to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, would still allow city officials to travel to Arizona under "special circumstances" that are in the city's interests. Also, existing contracts with Arizona firms would be exempt from the ban if canceling them would lead to "significant additional cost" to the city.

"We are pleased that one of the largest immigrant hubs in the United States of America is sending the message that bigotry and xenophobia will not stand," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Still, a national opinion poll released Wednesday found that most Americans support Arizona's crackdown. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 59% of adults surveyed gave their overall approval to the Arizona law.

That has not stopped a number of U.S. cities from calling for an economic boycott of Arizona. On Tuesday, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved a resolution similar to L.A's.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, one of the co-sponsors of the motion and a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said her office has been flooded with "hate calls and hate e-mails" criticizing the resolution. But, she said, "we know bad things happened when good people don't stand up and say something."

The City Council imposed similar economic sanctions to protest South Africa's apartheid policies and Colorado's 1992 repeal of local ordinances that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Officials with the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport have expressed concerns that severing all contracts could hurt those facilities' operations. The council resolution asks the commissions overseeing the port, airport and Department of Water and Power to review all contracts with ties to Arizona.

LAX receives $22 million in revenue from two Arizona-based airlines: US Airways and Mesa Air. The port relies on three Arizona firms for new low-emission big rigs, part of the city's clean-truck program that is expected to reduce truck-related pollution at the port 80% by 2012.

phil.willon@latimes.com

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