Arizona’s Immigration Law and the Impact on Events

Post authored by Patricia A. Ekers, Esq.

Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s new immigration law, is set to take effect on July 23, 2010.  The initial bill requires Arizona’s local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of any person they stop when that stop is for reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. Since its enactment, the law has been amended in House Bill 2162 which limits the scope of the law, specifically prohibiting race, color or ethnicity from being the criteria for reasonable suspicion.

The latest news on SB 1070 is that on July 6 the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB1070 stating that the law violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.  There are a total of six lawsuits pending from various parties.  On July 22 Susan Bolton, a federal judge, will hear arguments at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice and make a decision on whether to block the law from taking effect the next day on July 23.

Some organizations are considering boycotts, while other are actually pulling their meetings out of Arizona and incurring hefty cancellation fees.   Boycotts are not new.   According to Meetings and Conventions July 2010 magazine, several convention boycotts have occurred in recent history.  For example, in 1979 fifteen states refused to pass the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 and the National Organization of Women induced convention groups to deny convention business to those fifteen states.  In 1992 Arizona lost about 170 meetings and conventions in response to its then refusal to acknowledge MLK Day as a holiday (a decision that has since then been reversed).  In 1993 Colorado lost meetings revenue due it its then refusal to protect against sexual orientation discrimination.  In 2000 NAACP enacted a boycott of South Carolina in an effort to get the state to remove the Confederate Flag from atop the State House.  The National Rifle Association boycotted Columbus Ohio in 2005 and cancelled plans to have its 2007 meeting there because the Columbus City Council banned certain kinds of assault rifles. The list goes on.

Event planners should consider the impact of this and other legislation when first executing their hotel and other event contracts.  If an association represents a certain nationality, then they can write into the Force Majeure clauses verbiage similar to, “In the event the State of XX enacts legislation that is reasonably opposed to the collective interests of Group, such as but not limited to xxxxx, Group may cancel this contract without liability as long as notice is given to Hotel by xxxx time.”  Always consider the event’s attendees, exhibitors, customers, general interests, general activities and the event objectives when creating your contract.  What is important to the organization?  What is important to its membership?  Which event activities are essential?  By identifying these important factors, event planners can write protections into their event contracts in an effort to create contractual options later on in response to adverse legislation.

The Phoenix CVB has put together a packet of information to send to meeting planners regarding the new Arizona law.  Their website is www.visitphoenix.com.

Boycotts may or may not be the answer depending on your perspective.  One thing for sure is that boycotts are costly and boycotts hurt our industry!

UPDATED July 29, 2010
Yesterday Judge Bolton struck down the most controversial aspects of Arizona’s immigration law by issuing a temporary injunction (prohibition) on certain portions of the law.  Specifically, officers are not going to be required to check a person’s immigration status during traffic and other police stops.  Also, persons are not required to carry immigration papers or proof of citizenship.  Further, officers are prohibited from making warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants.   Judge Bolton issued the temporary injunction stating that the controversial portions of the law unduly restrict liberties of lawfully present persons because those persons will be detained while their status is being checked by police officers.

Opponents of the Arizona immigration law are rejoicing and consider this a victory.  Supporters of the law perceive it as a temporary setback.   The State of Arizona has already appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals although it will likely be a year before the case is heard in the Circuit Court.

Stay tuned as other states try to pass similar laws despite Judge Bolton’s ruling.  According to the Associated Press today, Utah State Representative Carl Wimmer, a Republican from Herriman City, stated that he is going to co-sponsor a similar immigration law in Utah next year.

Patricia A. Ekers, Esq. is Experient’s Client Services Attorney and a guest blogger who contributes periodically to this Event Industry Blog.

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