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Democrats, Latino advocacy groups oppose Republican immigration legislation

Latino advocacy groups oppose an Arizona Republican proposal that would make it tougher for undocumented immigrants to work in the state. They argue the bill would unfairly target the Latino community and hurt the state's economy, similar to a controversial 2010 immigration law.

By Wayne Schutsky, KJZZ

Democratic lawmakers and Latino advocacy groups are calling on Arizona businesses and state senators to oppose a Republican proposal they say will unfairly target the Latino community.

A coalition that includes Chicanos Por La Causa, Living United For Change Arizona and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce opposes HCR 2060, which would ask voters to approve new rules that would make it tougher for people who cross the border illegally to work in the state.  

Alejandra Gomez with LUCHA compared the measure to SB 1070, a controversial immigration law passed in 2010 that she blamed for a rise in racial profiling by law enforcement.

Despite the pall cast over Arizona by SB 1070, “there are some politicians who are hell bent on making this their political posturing so they can advance in their political careers, but what we are saying is ‘not today,’” Gomez said.

State Sen. Flavio Bravo (D-Phoenix) said the measure would also hurt the state’s economy.

“We are looking down the barrel of policy that will not only kill industries and dig us deeper into an already growing budget deficit, but this will undoubtedly rip apart families and upend the work we have been doing for decades to strengthen our workforce,” Bravo said.

But House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria), who sponsored the legislation, said something had to be done to address the influx of individuals crossing the border illegally.

"What about basic fairness for hardworking Arizonans that actually comply with the law?'' Toma said last week. "How can they afford to compete under those circumstances.''

“Our border is being overrun by illegal aliens,” he added.

The perception created by boycotts and other opposition to SB 1070 over a decade ago spooked Valley businesses at the time, leading 60 Arizona CEOs to send a letter in 2011 asking the Legislature to back off immigration bills.

“It took the CEOs signing with their signatures and their names, saying, ‘enough is enough,’” Joe Garcia with Chicanos Por La Causa said. “It took professional sports teams to step up and say, ‘enough is enough’ – Los Suns.”

But larger businesses and industry groups, including those who signed that 2011 letter, have been mum on HCR 2060 so far. None showed up to oppose the legislation alongside LUCHA and Chicanos Por La Causa on Monday.

The Phoenix Suns — the organization that Garcia called out by name, which regularly hosts Chicano Night and other events targeted towards the Latino community — did not respond to a request for comment. DMB Associates, an Arizona home builder that signed on to the 2011 letter, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Two small business owners, including Tres Leches Café owner Jose Rivera, did join the coalition at a press conference on Monday.

“This bill threatens not only to impose crippling fines on businesses, but also sends a chilling message to the immigrant entrepreneurs like myself and immigrant workers … that we're not welcome,” Rivera said.

But larger businesses and industry groups, including those whose businesses could be impacted by new rules in HCR 2060 that would have strengthened existing statutes that require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to determine the immigration status of people they hire, have not officially weighed in on the legislation. 

The new legislation included fines of up to $10,000 and possible prison terms for violations of the law and would also require state and local officials to use E-Verify  to determine the legal status of those seeking public benefits or licenses.

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, declined to comment on the legislation.

Spencer Kamps, a lobbyist for Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, would only say the organization is reviewing the legislation. 

HCR 2060 passed through the Arizona House last week. If it passes out of the Arizona Senate, voters will have the final say over whether it becomes state law – it's a ballot referral, meaning Gov. Katie Hobbs can’t veto the measure.

If it goes to the ballot, the LUCHA/Chicanos Por La Causa coalition plans to wage a campaign to convince voters to shoot it down.

Gomez, with LUCHA, said the group plans to knock on “1 million doors” this year.

That kind of campaign can get expensive.

But both Garcia and Gomez said that, if the HCR 2060 makes the ballot, they will have the support of the businesses and organizations that opposed similar legislation in the past.

"It is my understanding that calls are being made right now," Gomez said.

Monica Villalobos, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, agreed.  

“I think typically in these situations, there’s a wait and see attitude to see who’s coming out, what will pass, and I think there’s a small desire in the back of everybody’s minds that this will die in the next step,” Villalobos said. “Unfortunately, we have to fight it early on.”

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