Arizona immigration bill fallout: Boulder bans all city travel to AZ

Protests against Arizona's controversial immigration bill have been escalating in Colorado.

A student walkout last Friday. A series of rallies over the weekend, with more events likely to be announced soon. And now, in the wake of Denver Public Schools' ban of work-related travel to Arizona, the City of Boulder is following suit.

At last night's city council meeting, City Manager Jane Brautigam announced that she would inform city employees today of the decision. What spurred it?

"Arizona Senate Bill 1070 essentially allows police to check residency status based on a reasonable suspicion," says Patrick von Kerserling, Boulder's communication manager, "and the city manager and her staff believe people ought to be stopped based on something more than appearance."

Last night, he continues, "some council members brought forward some concerns about the Arizona law and what it does for diversity and inclusiveness policies, and city staff raised some concerns, as did some members of the public. So the city manager directed staff to immediately stop traveling to Arizona" for conferences or other city business. "And the council also asked the Human Relations Commission to study the measure further to determine an official policy.

"By not attending conferences, along with other cities that may make the same decision, we would send a clear financial message to Arizona that we don't agree with this law."

Not that Arizona is likely to feel much of a fiscal pinch, at least in the short term. At this point, von Keyserling says, no one in Boulder government appears to have been planning an Arizona trip on city business. However, he notes, "the directive just went out this morning. So all department directors are looking to see if there were any city conferences in Arizona, and if we need to cancel those appointments."

In addition, "we're also beginning to look at what types of business we do with Arizona-based companies and other interactions with Arizona to determine if there are other steps we can take to influence them."

In the meantime, Boulder's action is largely symbolic, and it will likely remain that way until the Human Relations Commission comes back with a formal recommendation about a further response. There's no set time frame for the HRC to take action, but given how hot this issue has become, the group is likely to expedite the process.

By weighing in, von Keyserling believes Boulder's position could also "influence how we approach Colorado state laws or federal laws dealing with immigration." But the statement could make a larger impact on folks in Boulder itself.

"The City of Boulder strives to be an inclusive and diverse community where people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are accepted as a part of the community," he says. "We don't believe Arizona singling people out based on their appearance alone to determine if they are U.S. residents is appropriate, and we certainly don't want to send that message to the Boulder community."

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