Arizona to Spend $250K on PR to Combat Negative Immigration Image


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has approved $250,000 in state funds for a marketing campaign to help her state combat its negative associations with illegal immigration and its controversial new immigration law.

Ironically, Brewer's own high-profile statements with respect to immigration may be exacerbating the problems Arizona's tourism industry has faced in the wake of the debate over its law, a hotel spokesperson reportedly suggested.

The issue of illegal immigration was brought to the forefront of national debate after Brewer in April signed into a law a controversial measure that makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. The law requires local officials to enforce immigration rules in ways some say could lead to racial profiling. President Obama yesterday criticized the law, calling it "ill conceived."

The law prompted a rash of municipalities to enact economic boycotts of Arizona, while some industries, like professional sports, also considered boycotts.

Brewer subsequently appointed a task force to make recommendations to help the state's struggling tourism industry. After receiving the task force's recommendations this week, which called for Arizona to reassure visitors that it is "a safe and welcoming destination," Brewer approved the public funds for the marketing campaign. The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association will contribute an additional $30,000 for the PR job.

Kristen Jarnagin, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said public officials have undermined the tourism industry's efforts to revive business by highlighting crime on the border, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

"The information that we're giving to support [the new immigration law] in our state is that there's massive crime happening here and (we're the) kidnapping capital," Jarnagin said. "And those don't help tourism."

Brewer, who is up for re-election this year, has capitalized on the galvanizing issue of border security in campaign materials that blast the Obama administration for not taking action at the border. She recently released a web video highlighting signs in the Arizona desert that warn visitors to stay away. Last month, in a debate with other Republican gubernatorial candidates, Brewer said most illegal immigrants crossing the border are smuggling drugs or involved with other kinds of criminal activity.

Brewer's office argues the attention the governor is putting on crime the border is justified. Just yesterday, 21 people died in a shootout in Arizona, just 12 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. A CBS News poll conducted in late May showed most Americans think illegal immigration is a serious problem and that Arizona's law is justified.

While some local governments and groups have planned boycotts in protest of the immigration law, Jarnagin told the Daily Star that most groups now canceling conferences or trips to Arizona "just don't want to be associated with the controversy."

The Obama administration plans to challenge the law in court once the Justice Department finishes building its case against it.