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Latino activists threaten boycott against businesses

Elvia DÃ*az
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Latino activists said Tuesday that they will boycott Arizona mainstream businesses that don't speak up against the escalating "attacks" on migrant workers.

Phoenix activist Salvador Reza and other Latinos are asking members of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce to help them, among other things, stop planned anti-illegal immigration laws or face an economic boycott.

The new campaign targeting businesses is the latest in a string of protests and proposed boycotts organized to counter the voter-approved Proposition 200 and other actions perceived as anti-immigrant.

Though two separate economic boycotts were carried out in May and July, it remains unclear whether businesses were directly affected. Reza has previously announced plans to ask conventions to stay elsewhere, but nothing concrete has resulted.

Reza, of the coalition United for Human Dignity, said mainstream businesses have remained silent during the increasingly explosive anti-illegal immigration debate, and that it's time for them to speak up for the workers who do everything from landscaping to construction.

Chamber of Commerce spokesman Farrell Quinlan said he disagreed with Reza's claims that the businesses community has done nothing. For instance, he said, the chamber was the top financial donor in the effort to defeat Proposition 200, a measure designed to combat voter fraud and keep undocumented immigrants from getting certain public benefits. The chamber is also working with local and federal policymakers to push for comprehensive immigration reform, Quinlan said.

"This is just great political theater," said Quinlan as he asked Reza and his group to leave the building. Reza had called a press conference at the chamber of which Quinlan said he knew nothing about.

Reza denied ambushing the chamber and said he's sending a letter to the members of the chamber asking them to join his effort within two weeks. Businesses that fail to heed his request will be placed on a boycott list that will be distributed across the nation, Reza said.

"This is a long-term boycott," said Reza, who also heads the Macehualli day-labor center in north Phoenix. "They will feel the effects in the long run."

Quinlan said he would advise businesses to ignore Reza's request, saying Reza has lost his credibility.

Rusty Childress, owner of Childress Automall in Phoenix and one of the main architects of Proposition 200, said he was surprised about the boycott against the chamber.

"It doesn't make any sense," said Childress, adding the chamber has been outspoken not only against Proposition 200 but other legislative proposals.