Most boycotts over Senate Bill 1070 are over. But some cities still won’t let their employees travel to Arizona.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf can’t travel to Arizona for work. 

Neither can city employees in Austin or officials from West Hollywood. Leaders in El Paso aren’t allowed to attend conferences here. 

Seven years after Senate Bill 1070 was signed into law, the cities continue to boycott Arizona.

Only a portion of the controversial immigration-enforcement law is still in place after years of litigation. State tourism groups say they’re no longer seeing the concerns that once lost them convention business and other travel.

But in cities throughout the country, policies condemning Arizona are in limbo. 

A survey by The Arizona Republic of cities and towns that announced boycotts of the state in 2010 found that a handful of them still enforce travel bans.

Others, like Los Angeles, have mostly toothless policies on the book. A spokeswoman in St. Paul Minn., couldn’t figure out what happened to a travel ban decreed by the city’s mayor, a predicament faced in several places.

Even less clear is what it would take to rescind the remaining restrictions. Staffers in some cities were confused whether SB 1070 was still in place, and said changes to bans would have to be proposed by the local leaders. 

A handful of mayors “may still be stuck in the past” after significant changes to the law, Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, said in a statement. Schaaf from Oakland declined an invitation to attend a downtown Phoenix summit this month due to the ban. 

At that summit, Stanton hosted two mayors from Mexico. Sherwood said Phoenix is focused on its future. 

Travel bans fuzzy in some cities

But it appears many Arizona boycotts called by cities got lost somewhere in SB 1070’s convoluted past.

The majority of cities contacted by The Republic had trouble readily determining the status of policies adopted at the height of controversy over the law. Staffers said changes in administration made it ambiguous, or they didn’t know which department would oversee the restrictions. 

Columbus, Ohio, overturned its Arizona travel ban after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key parts of SB 1070, according to a spokeswoman. San Francisco stopped actively discouraging travel to the state after that decision, too.

A representative of Boulder, Colo., said in an email that a decision to not send staff to conferences in Arizona ended soon after it started because the “Senate Bill didn’t become law.” Though SB 1070 did become law, key parts never took effect.

And it “appears” Seattle’s travel ban wouldn’t be in effect based on those changes, emailed Benton Strong, communications director for the mayor. 

But city staff in Hartford, Conn., and Durham, N.C., told The Republic they’d have to research the status of their bans but ultimately could not provide answers.

Amherst, Mass., couldn’t find any evidence of a policy or action following a 2010 vote prohibiting Arizona travel, Debra Puppel, assistant to the town manager, said in an email.

And when asked about the status of travel restrictions in St. Paul, a spokeswoman said, “I honestly don’t know how to figure that out.”

Ashley Aram, senior communications adviser for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, originally said in an email that she didn’t know of any requests by city employees to travel to Arizona post-SB 1070. A week later, she corrected that to say employees have traveled to the state since the ban.

Los Angeles to reconsider travel ban

In cities that continue to enforce Arizona boycotts, no one could answer exactly what it would take to repeal them. 

SB 1070 is still controversial, but it has been litigated. When then-Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law, it made it a state crime to be in the country without legal status and gave law enforcement broad power to ask about that status.

Many parts of the law never went into effect, after they were blocked by a federal judge.

A 2012 court decision left only the “show me your papers” clause that directs law-enforcement to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine immigration status if there’s suspicion a person is in the country unlawfully. Last year, Arizona paid $1.4 million in legal fees to groups that sued the state and agreed on guidelines for enforcing that provision.

Los Angeles is considering changes to its travel ban based on those decisions. The city suspended Arizona travel in 2010 and asked departments not to enter new contracts with businesses based in the state. 

The city approved three travel exemptions since then, according to a recent city report. Records show additional flights booked between 2014 and 2016 with no correlating exemption requests, the report found.

But no votes are imminent months after the report recommended the council either rescind the ban or develop clearer rules and regulations to enforce it. 

Austin employees can travel to Arizona for work only if the trip is related to a police investigation, to provide humanitarian aid or for resident health and safety reasons, according to city documents. 

In those cases, employees must receive approval in advance for the trip.

No changes on the horizon

Texas recently passed its own hard-line immigration bill. Austin spokeswoman Alicia Dean wrote in an email that she didn’t know of any recent conversations, though, about ending the Arizona restrictions.

Changes would have to come through a council resolution, Dean said. Interview requests with the mayor were deferred to a councilman, whose office did not respond.

City staff in West Hollywood, where official travel requests to Arizona are denied, monitor SB 1070 developments and could recommend repealing the travel ban in the future, Joshua Schare, public information officer, wrote in an email.

And no one in El Paso is suited to talk about its policy prohibiting employees from attending conferences in Arizona, said Irma Lopez, lead public affairs coordinator. The City Council would have to initiate any changes, she said, and it’s not on the radar.

“There’s nothing that’s been said,” she said.

SB 1070 foes hold conferences in Ariz. this year

Arizona tourism officials also were reluctant to talk about the lingering impacts of the state’s infamous law. No group appears to track existing boycotts.

The Arizona Office of Tourism declined to comment. Visit Phoenix deferred questions to the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association.

David Drennon, executive vice president of the association, said there wasn’t much to say, considering staff turnover since SB 1070 passed.

And Cynthia Weaver, spokeswoman for the Phoenix Convention Center, which once lost business due to the law, said no one there knew of any current issues.

“It’s really not something that has been coming up,” she said.

Indeed, two of SB 1070’s biggest opponents scheduled major events in the state this year. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, integral in litigation against the law, held its national staff conference in Phoenix in April. 

The organization still has a travel advisory in Arizona related to SB 1070, though, and will only lift it once the law is struck down or repealed, Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement.

The ACLU made sure conference attendees knew the law is still in effect to understand the risks and their rights, she said.

And the National Council of La Raza, which once helped organize an Arizona boycott including more than 100 civil-rights and social-justice organizations, will host its annual conference in Phoenix in July. 

The organization called off its boycott in 2011 and said it stopped the tide of similar legislation passing in other states. 

The council sees the location of this year’s conference as a return to its Arizona roots, Deputy Vice President Clarissa Martinez said. She said the choice also recognizes changes in the state that resulted from people here who organized against SB 1070.

“It’s a celebration of dogged efforts of the local community to chart a different way,” Martinez said.


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