Can a state really divorce itself from its neighbor?
If state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg gets his way, we could soon find out.
Jumping on the boycott bandwagon over Arizona's new law on illegal immigrants, the Sacramento Democrat urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today to do everything legally possible to sever economic ties with Arizona until it repeals the law.
He and others threatening boycotts say the law, signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, will inevitably lead to racial profiling. The law -- which would take effect in about three months barring a successful court challenge -- would require immigrants to carry proof of their status and require police to determine whether someone is in the country illegally if they have a "reasonable suspicion" about someone.
"As a border state, the impact of the Arizona law will surely have reverberations in California. And given the threat the Arizona law poses to public safety and individual freedoms, I believe we can't afford to wait for the courts to resolve the legal questions it presents. I think we have a moral obligation to deliver an unequivocal message to lawmakers in Arizona that California does not condone its conduct," Steinberg wrote Schwarzenegger.
"The Arizona law is as unconscionable as it is unconstitutional, and the state of California should not be using taxpayer dollars to support such a policy. For that reason, I respectfully request that you provide me with information about all existing and proposed contracts between the state of California and any businesses or governments in Arizona. I would like for our respective legal staffs to work together to determine whether we can legally break any of our existing contracts, and also ensure that no new contracts are negotiated until Arizona's law is effectively repealed."
The wave of opposition is similar to what happened after then-Arizona Gov. Evan Meacham repealed civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday in 1987 and voters supported that decision in 1990. That time, boycotts worked. After tourism plummeted and the NFL moved a Super Bowl from Tempe to Pasadena, Arizona voters reversed course in 1992 and made the holiday official.
But taken to an extreme, Steinberg's solution could threaten the whole idea of the United States of America. Would Utah boycott California because it allowed same-sex marriages? Would Phoenix shun San Francisco because it's a sanctuary city? Would state after state show its displeasure with a controversial law in another by cutting off ties?