LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles officials on Wednesday approved a ban on future business with Arizona in protest against its crackdown on illegal immigrants, becoming the largest U.S. city to impose such an economic boycott.
City Council members who voted 13-1 in favor of the punitive measure said it could affect about $8 million in contracts with Arizona, but Los Angeles must first decide which of those agreements it can break without triggering lawsuits.
Another $50 million in contracts will remain in place but the council directed city department heads to refrain from doing future business with Arizona or companies headquartered there whenever possible. The decision also suspends all city-related travel to the desert state.
“I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport,” Councilman Ed Reyes said before the vote. “If I come across an officer who’s had a bad day and feels the picture on my ID is not me, I could be summarily deported — no questions asked. That is not American.”
Arizona’s new law, which comes into effect at end-July, does not allow police to demand identification from individuals without cause or to summarily deport them. But it does require officers, during a lawful contact, to check the immigration status of anyone who they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally.
A spokesman for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the bill on April 23, said “an economic boycott against innocent people just adds to the massive economic burden Arizonans have sustained for years due to the federal government’s failure to secure our borders.”
“It also appears that the L.A. City Council appears hopelessly out of touch with most of America on this issue,” spokesman Paul Senseman said, as various polls have shown nationwide support for the state’s enforcement of immigration laws.
Several other cities across the United States have considered resolutions to protest against the law or sought boycotts —among them San Francisco and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
A nationwide study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released on Wednesday found that 59 percent of adults approve of Arizona’s new law, while 25 percent support President Barack Obama’s immigration policy.
Obama supports a system allowing undocumented immigrants in good standing to pay a fine, learn English and become citizens. He also backs tightening border security and clamping down on employers that hire undocumented workers.
Arizona’s new law has pushed the immigration debate into the political foreground and rebooted a drive by Obama and Senate Democrats to overhaul federal immigration laws.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Democrats introduced an outline to revamp the system on April 29. But they have not yet introduced legislation and passage of such a bill is seen as a long shot before November’s congressional elections.
Senator Charles Schumer said Democrats were still waiting for a Republican to back their draft legislation, nearly two weeks after it was unveiled.
“You cannot pass an immigration bill unless you have bipartisan support,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, told a conference call with conservative evangelical leaders.
“Right now we are unable to have a single Republican to come with us to the table to negotiate a bipartisan bill — and we need somebody.”
The Democrats’ plan is based on an earlier outline drafted by Schumer and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. But Graham has complained that Congress is not yet ready to move on it.
It seeks bolstered border security and introduce a high-tech identification card for immigrant workers. Other steps include employer sanctions and a path to U.S. citizenship for many of the 10.8 million people in the country illegally.
Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; editing by Chris Wilson