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Utah Latino groups urge boycott of stores, banks in protest of illegal immigration bills

SALT LAKE CITY — Several Latino groups are calling on their community to not shop at any Utah stores for two weeks in protest of an enforcement-only illegal immigration bill.

"We are not going to buy anything for 15 days," Jose Gutierrez, president of the Utah Hispanic Latino Coalition, said Thursday.

The boycott is planned for March 14 to March 28. In addition, he called on Latinos to withdraw their money from banks during that period "to show we make a difference" in the state's economy.

"We are showing you we are important," Guiterrez said.

Speaking in the Capitol rotunda, the groups urged Gov. Gary Herbert to veto HB497.

"We feel we need to do something to attract attention to the fact that we're unhappy and an integral part of this state," said Archie Archuleta, Utah La Raza chairman.

Archuleta said he didn't know how many people would participate, but more than 150 attended a meeting this week to organize the boycott. Word also is spreading via e-mail, he said.

Mexican nationals and immigrants own 1,834 businesses in Utah accounting for $227 million in annual sales, according to a recent letter several local economists distributed through the Salt Lake Chamber. Mexican immigrants own property valued at $984 million and have an estimated purchasing power exceeding $1 billion.

HB497 requires police to check the immigration status of people they arrest for felonies and serious misdemeanors. Officers may check the status of those suspected of less serious misdemeanors.

Also in the Capitol on Thursday, about 100 people opposed to HB116 were staged their own rally. They want Herbert to veto the bill that would create a Utah guest worker program for illegal immigrants.

"We think it's an embarrassment to our state to have our name on this bill," said Brandon Beckham, a Republican state delegate from Orem.

Beckham said the measure violates Herbert's own six principles for illegal immigration reform, which include respect for the law and fairness. "Rewarding criminal activity is not respect for the law in any sense of the word," he said.

The governor, he said, took an oath to protect and defend the Utah and U.S. constitutions.

"We want you to honor your oath of office," Beckham said.