Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 11, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Congressman Raul Grijalva


  • A discussion with Democratic Congressman from Arizona Raul Grijalva who recently rescinded his call for a boycott of Arizona over SB 1070.
Guests:
  • Raul Grijalva - U.S. Congressman (Dem.)
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas:
Arizona Democratic Congress y'allan Raul Grijalva called for a boycott of Arizona soon after senate bill 1070 was sign, but he backed off from that call after a judge blocked parts of the law from going into effect. His stance has resulted in Beth threats and belts being fired into his offices. Here now is Congressman Raul Grijalva. This explanation the extra security around the building today. Let's talk first about the boycott. Why did you decide it was time to rescind it?

Raul Grijalva:
There's really three basic reasons. The first was, the injunction. And the injunction taking the heart out of 1070 was a factor. The other factor, quite Frankly, is strategically, part of what's going on nationally in terms of lost receipts, it's almost organic. It's happening regardless of whether you say yes or no to a boycott, and I think to some extent that effect is going to continue, and it's caused by not only the actions of 1070, but the continued comments about beheadings, people dying in the desert, kidnapped capital of the world, rampant violence, crime going on. You know, the one scout master has said is it safe for me to bring my scouts into Arizona? That kind of rhetoric has to be toned down. The other reason is to take the boycott off the table in terms of my perspective. The issue of the economic sanctions. One of the reasons people haven't wanted to sit down and look at a real solution about immigration and fixing this broken system of ours, especially around adds border, one of the excuses has been this boycott, despicable, distraction, and the third, and I think this is -- when Arizona went through its boycott on Martin Luther King, it had an effect. It had an effect on the business community it had an effect on the revenue, and eventually hit an effect of turning back around that bad policy decision. I'll be honest, I just don't think that there's going to be that kind of effect on the leadership of this state that -- on this issue. You see Pearce celebrating the idea that you're losing business, Brewer has made the campaign stamp, and that's what she's running on. So strategically are we going to change it? And then who are we hurting? Many of the workers of resorts and hotels have -- happen to be the same people this law was directed at. The lowest paid and the ones with the most problems, economically as a consequence of this law. So I met with them, I met with resort owners who are opposed to the law, and with artists that are opposed to the law, and I thought, well, it's time to take a step back, suspend that call. Other things will continue, I mean, there's a lot of ire against the diamondbacks and their owner for the huge amounts of money he's given to Russell Pearce and everybody else that voted for 1070, he's hosted them in the sky box. His comments on 1070, totally unlike what the suns did. So there's -- there continues to be a great deal of ire on the Diamondbacks, and that national movement about that all-star game continues with or without my call for a boycott.

Richard Ruelas:
You called it organic. And you say it's with or without your call for a boycott. Do you think your call had an effect?

Raul Grijalva:
I think we nationalized it, and that was the point. It got attention. We wanted to have attention. We felt this issue couldn't be a quaint little Arizona problem. That its implications constitutional and civil rightswise had a national implication, and it did. And I think we wanted to bring attention to it, we've done that, and we're happy with the reaction that we got in terms of the injunction, and other parts.

Richard Ruelas:
But you thought the boycott might have had the effect of having the business community look at their lawmakers and policymakers, it seems like it had the effect, what you're saying of hardening the --

Raul Grijalva:
It wasn't even a question of hardening. It's a question of there's -- their sigh excellence deafening on the issue. They won't take a position, many of them, they -- some of the leadership carps about the boycott, and yet when confronted with, do you think this law is bad, and is hurting your business, they won't take a position. So you can't have it both ways. At some point some of the corporate interests in in state have to have the courage to stand up and say, this law is bad, it's hurting our business, and I think that will come with time. Right now there's -- they're just afraid to step up.

Richard Ruelas:
SB 1070 like you said, the heart of it has not gone into effect, but during the time between when it was signed and the federal judge issued that injunction, your district touches on some west valley communities and sort of reaches extended down to southern Arizona. What were you hearing from your constituents, particularly here in areas like Tolleson and Avondale?

Raul Grijalva:
I think it's the -- it was the fear of the unknown. How is this going to affect me? It was -- and when I think that the generalized reasonable suspicion theory, which attached to the profiling, there was fifth, sixth, seventh, 10th generation Latinos born in this country and raised in this state that now all of a sudden were in the same category as someone that was undocumented that got here yesterday. I think that had a huge reaction. Plus, just the apprehension, the sense of -- the sense that all of a sudden because of who I am, I am a target. I think those feelings were really strong. And at the same time, the 1070 has continued to be a very, very divisive issue, a polarizing issue. What 1070 did that -- you know, let's be honest. Underneath the discussion of immigration is the issue of race, period. People don't want to confront, that that's fine. There was a certain gentleman's agreement that that issue wasn't always touched upon. 1070 brought that issue front and center. Of of the discussion. And so now with those overtones, plus the division, plus the polarization among people in the state, you felt that tension, you felt that division, and you felt that anger on both sides of the question.

Richard Ruelas:
Although those who are advocates of 1070 will say just the opposite. This law applies to any officer stops racially -- racial profiling except as allowed by the constitution of the United States is prohibited. How do you see it bringing race to the forefront?

Raul Grijalva:
Well, I think reasonable suspicion, and the issue of profiling, racially profiling, and I think the whole tenor -- 1070 is part of the petRi dish in Arizona. We've had a series of laws that keep adding up. And when you accumulate all these laws, and all these efforts, and all this rhetoric, there's a sense that this is addressed at me. And so not just 1070, it's an accumulation of things being done and things being said. When McCain talks, now it's direct -- there's an understanding now that I hope people understand there's a long memory in this. And for the life of me, the Republican party making immigration and Latinos per se the whipping boy and the wedge issue in these next election is a huge mistake. They might get traction and win, but the long-term laws for their party is significant. As a strategy, as a politician, I can't understand why they would bite that for a short-term gain, and abdicate long range for the long time for generations to come.

Richard Ruelas:
As a politician, someone who has run some campaigns, do you think it will win?

Raul Grijalva:
I think it's going to have some traction. It's going to have some effect. I think -- I really believe the effort nationwide is to make this a central wedge issue, the third rail in this. And to beat the democrats with it over and over again. And I really believe that some races are going to be tougher than they should be. Because of this issue, and because of the polarization that's occurred. It's very sad state of affairs that we can't talk about immigration and the middle ground that it has to be either/or. And hopefully now that we've done some more enforcement money on the border, that we can begin to take that enforcement only mentality off and say, OK, who wants to fix this broken system, sit down, and begin to compromise? That's what we've lacked now for five years.

Richard Ruelas:
Do you see any movement towards that? Can you foresee after the November election as you go back to Washington --

Raul Grijalva:
I hope people come back after this election and understand that it's not just about immigration reform, it's about keeping the social fabric of our nation together. And we cannot create a permanent division in which we create a double standard of law in this country, or double standard of behavior toward each other in this country. So I hope people come back and say, this issue of immigration reform is also a proxy for keeping this nation together, it's a proxy for civil rights, it's a proxy on diversity, and we begin to approach it that way as an important social legislation that's going to keep this country together.

Richard Ruelas:
You have a personal interest in seeing the rhetoric get toned down a bit. Soon after your call for a boycott, your office received some threats, and there was some bullet holes outside your office. What were those days like for you and your staff?

Raul Grijalva:
More so for the staff, you know. I used to tend to pooh-pooh those things, just blow-hards, they're mad, and they need to vent. But, you know, a direct act of violence, some really ugly death threats, the safety of the people that come in to seek help in our offices, and the safety of the fine people that work in the offices became paramount, and we've taken precautions.

Richard Ruelas:
Has the mood calmed at all?

Raul Grijalva:
I think it has. I think it has. I think the injunction, it peaked a reaction, but it also was a necessary pause for us to begin to think about what we're going to do long-term on this issue.

Richard Ruales:
What is life like for you in D.C.? We know there's a tea party caucus, and there's a Latino caucus, and is the camaraderie still there?

Raul Grijalva:
The level --

Richard Ruales:
even the Arizona members?

Raul Grijalva:
We get together, and there's mutual issues. I mean, Arizonans get together on water, make sure California doesn't take it all. There's issues we talk about. But the level of civility that one hears about, the house of the very deliberate debate to get things done, the issue of, we could agree to disagree, those are gone. It's partisan, it's got-you politics, it's how -- and I think it's a loss for the nation, because many times the solution to the problem is a compromise, and accommodation for either side. Not being given that option every issue is black and white, every issue is yes or no, and the loss in the long-term is for the American people. They're not getting the kind of legislation they deserve because everything is pitted yes or no.

Richard Ruelas:
Given that, I guess because were you polarizing figure after calling for the boycott, with -- in hindsight, was calling for the boycott right thing?

Raul Grijalva:
I think it was. Because the purpose was to nationalize it. I think in hindsight, as many people react, hindsight I would -- I would think a lot more closely about reacting in anger. I was angry about that. I felt personally insulted. I felt it was insulting a community and a people that didn't merit being victims of this law. And one reacts with anger if -- I'm ashamed to say that, because we shouldn't, as politician react with anger. I'm certain no one else in our delegation ever gets angry, but I did, but we wanted to nationalize the issue. If I had to do it over again, would I have been more pragmatic and strategic about it.

Richard Ruelas:
Well, I'm sure you'll have opportunities, I'm sure, to address this issue.

Raul Grijalva:
I don't think it will go away for a while.

Richard Ruelas:
Congressman, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule and your campaign, I should add, to join us.

Raul Grijalva:
My pleasure. Thank you very much.

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