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Mercury News

Posted on May 5, 2010

Richmond plans boycott of Arizona
over immigration law

Posted: 05/05/2010 12:41:06 PM PDT
Updated: 05/05/2010 05:41:54 PM PDT

Richmond is joining a growing list of cities in denouncing Arizona's new immigration law and boycotting the state until the law is repealed.

"We have here a huge number of people who would be stopped in the street if we had this sort of law in Richmond," Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman said. "We wouldn't tolerate it here; we shouldn't support it anywhere."

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, with Councilman Nat Bates absent, to oppose Arizona's law and bar city workers from traveling there on behalf of the city. In addition, Richmond won't do business with Arizona-based companies and will nix any contracts it has now with these firms if it can do so legally. Officials said Wednesday that they are studying how many contracts, if any, would be affected.

The Arizona measure, which became law April 23 and was modified April 29, touched off an emotional debate and deepened the divide on immigration issues. It gives police authority to check documentation and detain people they suspect of being an illegal immigrant if that person is detained or arrested in connection with another offense.

Supporters say it's a necessary tool where other measures have proved inadequate. Opponents fear it will lead to racial profiling of Latinos and other minorities.

In Richmond, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Ritterman sponsored Tuesday's resolution.

Residents urged officials to pass it, saying Arizona's law sets a bad precedent and would legalize racial profiling after decades of progress on the civil rights front.

Resident John Marquez recounted federal immigration raids here in 1991, including an instance in which a Latino-American was handcuffed and detained because he did not have a green card to show on command. The man had served in the Marines, from which he had been honorably discharged.

"I fear that I — someone who was born in this country, someone whose ancestors have been here since the 1600s — that I will be asked for papers to identify myself that I am here legally," said Marquez, a former City Council member. "I don't carry that kind of material. I never had to. And yet because of the shade of my skin, I may have to produce something or my family would have to come defend me."

The Oakland City Council unanimously approved a nearly identical resolution Tuesday night. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has stopped city travel to Arizona except for police and public health.

San Pablo is scheduled to consider adding its voice to the opposition May 17.

Other cities, such as Newark and Walnut Creek, will steer clear of the issue.

"We do not take sides, or make resolutions, on anything outside of our boundaries," said Gary Pokorny, Walnut Creek city manager. "It doesn't matter if it's happening in Africa or Arizona."

Staff writers Ben Aguirre Jr., Elisabeth Nardi and Tom Lochner contributed to this story.


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