Coalition of Tucson businesses launches campaign against Arizona harsh immigration law

Published 14 July 2010

A coalition of 90 Tucson, Arizona businesses launches a “We Mean Business” campaign to show their resistance to SB 1070 — the harsh immigration law set to take effect 29 July; many of the owners agree there is a need for immigration reform; however they do not think the new law is the most effective approach

Nearly ninety Tucson, Arizona business owners are showing their resistance to SB 1070 — the immigration law set to take effect 29 July — through a new “We Mean Business” campaign. Participating business owners demonstrate their opposition to the new law with “We Mean Business” signs in the windows of their establishments.

Many of the owners agree there is a need for immigration reform; however they do not think the new law is the most effective approach. Artist Tom Philabaum, owner of Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio on South Sixth Avenue downtown, is one of the businessmen posting a placard in his window. He was disheartened in May when he attended a rally in opposition to SB 1070 only to hear U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva’s call for a boycott of the state. Since the measure was signed in April by Governor Jan Brewer, various corporations, special-interest groups and municipalities nationwide have called for boycotts of Arizona.

Arizona Daily Star’s Kimberly Matas writes that as a result of the immigration law, the Glass Arts Society canceled plans to have its national conference in Tucson next spring, an event Philabaum spent 18 months and 900 hours coordinating with the local chamber of commerce, museums, and galleries. He said it would have brought thousands of artists and up to $2 million to the city.

“We’re all for immigration reform,” he said, “but this boycott of Arizona is killing us.”


Joe Sanchez, owner of A-1 Sewing and Vacuum, 3013 N. First Avenue, is another supporter of the “We Mean Business” campaign. He agrees with Philabaum that there is a need for immigration reform, but believes state lawmakers did not give enough thought to the problem before crafting the measure.

Everything should be as fair as we can get it. I think a lot of things are done too hastily because a lot of politicians want to make a name for themselves,” he said. “It’s not really that I’m for or against (SB 1070), but we all have to look at it.”

Tony Vaccaro, owner of Brooklyn Pizza Company, said he does not expect backlash for placing a “We Mean Business” sign in the window of his North Fourth Avenue eatery. “I’m not doing it for our customers. It’s kind of more of my personal political view, along with all of the employees here,” he said. “Although, I would imagine, given our location on Fourth Avenue, they would also support our position.”

Local publisher Tony Venuti, who launched a pro-SB 1070 “buycott” campaign in May (, expects “We Mean Business” to backfire. “The people who are against it (SB 1070) are focused on the 35 percent who agree with fighting it,” Venuti said of opponents of the new immigration law. “What they’re going to find out is they’re going to lose a majority of their customers. It’s going to shoot them in the foot big time.”

Venuti anticipates those business owners in favor of SB 1070 — whom he calls the “silent majority” - will counter the “We Mean Business” campaign with placards of their own supporting the law.

Members of the nonprofit humanitarian organization No More Deaths kicked off the “We Mean Business” campaign last Thursday night. “There are some shopkeepers that have told us, ‘We prefer to stay neutral on issues such as this,’ and we are sending a very clear message that they need to stand on the right side,” said Sarah Launius, a spokeswoman for No More Deaths. “‘We Mean Business’ is really raising our voices and seeking out businesses who will also raise their voices to say, ‘No, this is unacceptable.’ Not only does it drain the lifeblood of our community socially and economically, if we continue down this path we will bankrupt our state.”