California’s political leaders, from the state Senate’s top Democrat to the mayor of Los Angeles, have embraced a boycott of Arizona after that state adopted a new law giving police broad discretion to detain and arrest anyone they believe to be an undocumented immigrant.
Here’s a better idea: instead of running away from Arizona, Californians should be running to Arizona – to lure residents, businesses and jobs back to the Golden State.
The bad publicity Arizona is getting represents an enormous opportunity for California. Businesses that rely heavily on immigrant labor – agriculture, garments, tourism, assembly-line manufacturing, huge swaths of the service sector – have to be nervous about the impact that strict enforcement of the new law might have on their ability to recruit and retain employees.
That’s only one of the problems that might have entrepreneurial Arizonans thinking about moving. Arizona is one of the few states in the country where the budget is in worse shape than in California. (California’s budget gap is approximately 20 percent of its revenues; Arizona’s is close to one-third of its revenues) Earlier this year, Arizona became the first state in the country to eliminate its entire program for providing health insurance to poor children. And even that wasn’t enough to balance its budget. The same Republican governor who signed the immigration bill is also asking voters to support an increase in the sales tax.
Now is the time for California economic development officials to launch a well-organized raid of Arizona businesses, and for our political leaders to offer incentives for entrepreneurial immigrants to come here to start their businesses and buy homes. Ironically, one reality that might help California lure back businesses is the depth of our current recession. For all the pain it has caused, California’s usually high land and labor costs are at or near historic lows, making this state far more competitive with Arizona and other states.
Is it bad manners to take advantage of our neighbor’s problems? Sure. But Arizona business leaders have spent the past decade using California’s economic and budget difficulties in campaigns to lure away business. Since turnabout is fair play, we shouldn’t hesitate to exploit their weaknesses.
Let’s not boycott them. Let’s beat ‘em.