Santa Monica College boycotts Arizona

Malibu Mayor disagrees with the vote.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

Joining a long list of government bodies, the Santa Monica College District Board of Trustees earlier this month unanimously voted to boycott Arizona because of the state’s recently passed anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070. The district, which includes Malibu, will refrain from conducting business with the state and entities in it until SB 1070 and another recently passed law that eliminates “ethnic studies” from K-12 curriculum are rescinded. Student Trustee Michael Song, who has an advisory vote, rejected the resolution. Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner opposed the decision.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education will also consider a boycott during a meeting this Friday.

SB 1070 makes it a crime to be in the country illegally and requires Arizona’s law enforcement officers to ask for proof of citizenship if there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant. This inquiry can only be made if the person is being questioned on another illegal matter such as a traffic violation. Although the most vocal reaction nationwide to the law has been in opposition to it, all the major scientific polls show a majority of Americans support the law, with proponents making up as much as 64 percent of the country. Reaction in this state is evenly divided, according to a recent poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and USC.

Wagner, who said, “I’m personally not opposed to the initiative in Arizona,” told The Malibu Times, “I think there are bigger issues for the college district to pursue.”

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As for a potential Arizona boycott in Malibu, Wagner said, “It’s not an initiative that I would pursue as mayor. I think there are more valuable issues for me to pursue; Pacific Coast Highway safety, water quality and development policies.”

The City of Malibu has two active contracts with businesses based in Arizona, Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman wrote in an e-mail. One is with a company that provides monitoring for the city’s Civic Center storm water treatment facility equipment. The other is with a company that stores the city’s off-site server, which is located in Arizona. She wrote that the city at this time has no plans to end either contract or to relocate the server, but she wrote she could not speak for what actions the city council might take on the subject.

Wagner said finding another place to store the city’s files would take away unnecessary government “time and energy.” Recently elected City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal declined to say how she feels about SB 1070. She said she had not thought about whether the city council should pursue an Arizona boycott.

“It’s something certainly that I can see the council perhaps taking on,” Rosenthal said. “I would just have to think about it. I’m still new. I’m still learning the processes and what would be effective for us to do and what would not be. I’m concentrating on public safety.”

SMC Board Trustee Margaret Quinones, who introduced the boycott resolution to the board, said at the meeting that it was about more than Arizona. “It’s about what we’re going to tolerate as people here in Santa Monica regardless of what color we are,” she said. Regarding the ethnic studies ban, HB 2281, Quinones said, “That’s basically like saying a lot of us don’t exist.”

Student Trustee Song, who was voting on the first item at his first meeting as a student trustee, said he was initially opposed to SB 1070. But he said after doing further research and due to some revisions that were made to the law, his “perception has changed somewhat.” He explained this in an e-mail to The Times.

“I was initially opposed to the law, but after amendments were made to prevent investigating complaints based on race, color or national origin, and allowing police to seek immigration status only after a lawful stop, incident or arrest, I now support the law,” Song wrote.

He also stated at the board meeting that he feared a boycott, which would include no district-sponsored travel to the state, would negatively affect racial minorities working in Arizona’s travel and tourism industry, the people the boycott is supposedly trying to protect. Trustee Susan Aminoff echoed this opinion.

“That industry is inhabited by 200,000 working class folks, many of whom are minorities,” Aminoff said. “They will be impacted by the vote that we take. So I’m trying to weigh the civil rights and human rights issues against this very real economic fact. And when I do that, I still come out on the human rights side of things.”

Quinones said this was a valid concern, but she said racial minorities are at risk anyway by the passage of SB 1070. “Those socio-economic people of color in Arizona, they’re going to be targets every minute. They won’t even know if they have a job or housing. They’re going to be targets all the time unless other people stand up for them.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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