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Arizona’s Long Hot Summer

Last week’s filing of the anticipated federal lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial immigration law--set to take effect July 29--all but guarantees the issue will continue to roil debate. Despite the controversy—and President Obama’s repeated denunciations of the law--21 states may follow Arizona’s lead, having discussed or introduced “copy-cat” legislation.

Off the front pages, the heat continues to build on other fronts. Nineteen business groups from across Arizona--citing the burden of boycotts from cities, counties, states, performers, and other groups--collectively urged the federal government to reform our immigration system. The signatories are also troubled by the “unintended consequences” of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, including damage to the state’s relationship with its biggest trading partner (Mexico) and community tensions. 

While they acknowledge the frustration of the current broken immigration system and its outsized impact on Arizona, they insist that it is the federal government’s responsibility--and duty--to fix it. They support a four-pronged approach: strengthen border security; implement a secure system for employers to verify legal workers; require non-criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally to register, learn English, and pay fines and fees to legalize; and establish a market-based legal immigration process that will meet the needs of our nation’s economy.

Another response to the boycotts and travel cancellations is Gov. Jan Brewer’s announcement of a new advertising campaign aimed at increasing tourism in the state. This comes on the heels of her cancellation of an annual meeting of U.S. border state governors and Mexican governors--who, citing the law, refused to participate--that was to be held in Phoenix later this year.

Meanwhile, police in Arizona are split over whether the new law is a good thing for their state. The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes it, calling it an unfunded mandate, a distraction from their crime-fighting duties, a lawsuit risk, and a community tension builder. At the same time, the Arizona Police Association supports it, citing officer casualties at the hands of unauthorized immigrants.  

And the pressure is on Major League Baseball (MLB) to move the 2011 All-Star game out of Phoenix, where it is scheduled to take place next July, a first for Arizona. Several players have spoken out against the law or threatened to boycott the game, and protestors delivered a petition with 100,000 signatures to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

 It looks like it’s going to be one long hot summer, quite literally perhaps for Stephen Colbert if he follows through on his pledge to accept a challenge from the United Farm Workers to “Take our Jobs.”