Hispanics threaten California boycott over license bill veto

Saturday, September 25th 2004, 11:08 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Angered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill to let undocumented immigrants drive legally, Hispanic leaders and political groups are organizing protests and a national boycott of California to disrupt convention business.

Supporters of the bill accuse the Republican governor of reneging on promises to reach a compromise. Instead, they say, Schwarzenegger tacked on a demand that calls for licenses to be specifically marked _ differentiating illegal immigrants' licenses from those of U.S. citizens and legal residents.

``If this is the posture the governor wants to take, then our community is going to be forced to kick it up a notch,'' said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association and Hermandad Mexicana, based in Southern California.

Lopez planned to organize a national boycott aimed at steering conventions away from San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Francisco.

The measure, approved Aug. 27 by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, would have allowed up to 2 million immigrants to drive legally. Religious leaders joined activists Friday in downtown Los Angeles to protest Schwarzenegger's stance.

The legislation's supporters contend that allowing illegal immigrants to have licenses would improve public safety by requiring them to know the rules of the road and obtain insurance. Opponents have cited security and illegal immigration concerns.

Mike Wilzoch of the Service Employees International Union, which has 30,000 workers statewide, said his organization may protest the governor's veto after the November election. Union leaders, however, doubted a boycott would cause Schwarzenegger to change his mind.

The National Council of La Raza said it would consider canceling its 2008 convention in San Diego if a boycott proceeds, said Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the Washington-based umbrella group of 300 organizations.

But, some question whether a boycott is appropriate, noting conventions help keep buoy employment for workers in hotels, restaurants and other services.

``Ultimately, a boycott hurts everybody,'' said Sal Giametta, spokesman for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.