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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Arizona immigration law hits home home

El Centro forum urges UNM to take stance on issue

The Raza Graduate Student Association is asking the UNM community to put its money where its mouth is through a boycott of Arizona.

The RGSA hosted “To Boycott or Not to Boycott: UNM Community Responds to Arizona Boycott,” on June 30, a forum more than 35 students, faculty and community members attended.

Meriah Heredia Griego, the senior program manager for El Centro De la Raza’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, said the forum was organized to put pressure on UNM to take a stance on the issue.

“It starts with individual student clubs and organizations adopting the policy themselves and then taking it to the next level: to our student government and to academic departments and deans, and finally putting pressure on the Board of Regents and the President to take a stance on this,” she said.

Christopher Ramirez, co-organizer of the RGSA forum, said the Arizona bill strikes a chord with New Mexicans.

“The graduate program I’m in, Community and Regional Planning, is using UNM Funds to send a group of students to Phoenix to do research on transportation and planning,” he said. “I really feel like I have heard very specifically from the Arizona community that they want us to support the boycott and I think UNM support of that boycott is very important.”

Since Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 2281 were signed into law at the end of April, boycotts of Arizona have increased and now include 14 U.S. cities and nine national organizations, according to the May 20 issue of the Weekly Alibi.

Forum attendees were encouraged to write their thoughts on sheets of paper hung on the walls of the UNM Ethnic Centers foyer in Mesa Vista Hall.

Attendees wrote sentiments on the sheets of paper such as, “UNM, being so close to Arizona, has a duty to honor the voices of students calling for a boycott,” and “Money talks. A boycott may be one of the only ways to economically get a point across.”

Voicing various concerns, including fear of racial profiling, the organizers’ main objection was that the laws could have a residual effect on other states and influence New Mexico lawmakers to draft similar bills, which would jeopardize UNM’s diversity, ethnic studies programs, and scholarship money for immigrants.

“I am very concerned about the impact that similar legislation could have on the families and communities here if it were to cross the border between us and Arizona,” said Marisa Silva, a high school teacher who attended the forum.

Still, forum attendee Sofia Martinez said the boycott effort faces problems. She said a boycott could hurt indigenous peoples of Arizona.

“Many tribes get a lot of their income from tourism, so the boycott really impacts them. If we boycott, that’s a real problem for them,” she said. “They are supportive of a boycott because of the race issues involved but at the same time they don’t want it to affect their native nations.”

Ramirez said there could also be drawbacks in terms of how the boycott would affect research done in Arizona.

“RGSA will move forward with working with not only student organizations on campus but also the community to really identify how we can continue to support our brothers and sisters in Arizona,” he said. “And also really tackle these hard issues in our own state and on our own campus.”