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Commentary :: Human Rights
El Gran Paro: Standing with Immigrants on May 1
28 Apr 2006
On May 1, thousands of immigrants and their allies will engage in a one-day boycott. They will stay away from jobs, schools, and stores. Instead of their daily routine they will gather in public parks, city streets, and community centers across the country to celebrate their presence and power in our country’s economic landscape.

On that day, I will join my sister and brother immigrants. I will halt my economic activity. For one day, I will not perform schoolwork and I will not shop. For one day, I will join with thousands of immigrants in calling for an immediate path to citizenship and saying no to criminalization and guest worker programs.

Some have noted that, historically, one-day boycotts have little lasting economic impact. Consumers simply shop a bit more the day before or the day after. Such criticism is valid of boycotts intended to bring the targeted businesses to their knees. That is not my goal, nor that of the thousands who I will join.

I do not intend to wreak economic havoc on any business. After all, their economic well-being provides jobs for immigrants. The millions of people who have taken to the streets in recent weeks have done so expressly to protect the ability of immigrant workers to work.

Instead, I will cease my economic activity on May 1 to remind our legislators that this economy functions only because immigrants carry it on their shoulders as workers and consumers.

In addition, I will join the boycott to remind our legislators that they serve me. Their distant debates are my concerns, the concerns of my family, friends, and neighbors. Yes, I am watching the discussion in Washington. And on May 1, I will remind them that I have not stopped paying attention.

In the wake of the recent mass demonstrations, many commentators began referring to immigrants’ rights as the new civil rights movement. Let us remember that the original civil rights movement did not start and end with one month of protest.

The civil rights movement consisted of many prolonged battles. While the NAACP used the courts, SNCC took the streets. While preachers utilized the privilege of the podium, they also relied on the moral power of nonviolently confronting injustice in the streets. When college students joined Freedom Summer they did so with the knowledge that their work was only part of a larger, longer struggle.

When engaging in our democratic process requires that we take to the streets, as we have done recently, we must remember that this form of democratic participation requires a longer commitment than pulling a lever in a voting booth.

Recently, French students reminded us that protest remains a powerful and critical tool in practicing democracy. When French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stood before television cameras to reprimand students who protested he did not realize that the students would not give up. And he surely did not realize that they would be joined by millions of workers across France.

For weeks, millions of Nepalese demanded democratic reforms. They remained in the streets even while the government brutally repressed their efforts. This week, the government responded to their demands.

This week, members of Congress resume their discussion of immigration reform As they do, anti-immigrant voices continue to press their demands and Washington lobbyists busily explain their constituencies’ take.

Even with the best efforts of prominent national immigrants’ rights organizations, labor unions, and countless local activists, those of us who are in this country lawfully and who support dignified immigration reform, do not have the lobbying prowess to match. And undocumented people, by definition, do not have a ready ear in Congress.

We cannot now abandon our one proven tactic—protest.

Recently, Republican leaders Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert agreed to remove the worst of the rightwing propositions from the congressional discussion. Gone are the criminalization efforts found in the Sensenbrenner legislation and in Frist’s own Senate proposal.

Did the Republican leadership have a change of heart? No. They saw the crowds in Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, and countless other cities across the country. They saw us and felt the power of our collective presence.

Our presence in the streets changed the conversation. But our work is not complete. We cannot be satisfied with a proposal for a temporary guest worker program reminiscent of the notorious Bracero Program. From the 1940s to the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans traveled north to work in the fields of Texas and California. They were promised the protections of our laws. What they got was an agriculture industry dominated by employers who regularly flaunted our nation’s laws. Inexpensive workers became exploited people.

The proposed guest worker program threatens to repeat many of the shortcomings of the past. When immigration status is inextricably tied to employment, lawful status is entirely in the hands of the employer. The power to control an immigrant’s status is a remarkable threat. Are we to believe that immigrants who seek to exercise their right to join a union or have safe working conditions won’t be threatened with unemployment and deportation?

Recent history teaches otherwise. Thousands of workers across the country have been fired for their participation in the recent demonstrations. In Lindale, Texas, Benchmark Manufacturing, Inc., a company that assembles air conditioners, fired 22 workers because they participated in a recent immigration rally. Wolverine Packing in Detroit fired 21 workers. Only after immense pressure from community members did they reinstate the workers.

Understandably, several immigrants’ rights organizations have tempered their support of protest because of the threat of more firings.

Yet, the courage that so many immigrants displayed in exercising their constitutional right to protest is inspiring. As a student, I am privileged to face much less severe consequences. As a result, on May 1, I will participate in the nationwide boycott.

What are the consequences of missing a day of classes? Few, if any. Indeed, as a law student I will surely gain a greater appreciation of our constitution and our nation’s shared aspiration of equal opportunity by standing alongside people much less privileged than me.

A classmate recently commented that it is perhaps unwise for students to leave their classrooms so near the end of the semester. Exams are upon us, he said, so I can’t encourage people to walk out of school.

I only need to look at the University of Miami for inspiration. There, six students have joined custodial workers in a hunger strike. The students support the workers’ desire to join the heavily immigrant Service Employees International Union.

If those students can sacrifice their health as the semester closes surely I can take a day off from school to stand in solidarity with immigrants in my own community. An convenience to be sure, but an inconvenience worth bearing.

I will join the boycott because my privilege demands it. I am a citizen of this country, a well-educated man with a love of justice. I must speak now because the people who clean my classrooms might not be able to, because the people who prepare the restaurant dinners I eat might not be able to, because the people about whose lives Congress is debating cannot talk back except through the power of protest.

I will stand with my immigrant sisters and brothers because I recognize and value their contribution to our country. I will join the nationwide boycott because their work makes my privilege possible. I will join because, as the book of Leviticus teaches: “the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as thyself.” (Lev. 19:34).

---
Originally from the Texas border region, César is a second-year law student.
See also:
http://www.alternet.org/story/35298/
http://www.bostonmayday.org/

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Re: El Gran Paro: Standing with Immigrants on May 1
29 Apr 2006
I will not join the boycott. In fact, I will oppose the boycott and have encouraged friends to do so as well. How will I do this? I have allocated $500.00 to buy things on Monday that I would not have otherwise bought. I will patronize business, especially hispanic businesses who stay open. In addition, there is a growing number of people who will take note of the businesses that are closed on Monday and we will boycott those businesses on the 5th of May. This boycott will backfire. Why will it backfire? Because people are angry at those who break our laws to come here for personal economic benefit and then try to hurt the economy that they are here to exploit. Yes, this will cause a backlash. This will be the catalyst of anger that has been missing from the mainstream American mind. People have felt bad for the illegals. Not any more.
THE POLLS ARE AGAINST YOU
29 Apr 2006
By eight-to-one, Americans think it is unfair to grant rights to illegal immigrants while thousands of people wait each year to come to the United States legally. Fully eighty-six percent of Republicans think it is unfair, as do seventy-seven percent of Democrats.
Opinion Dynamics Poll for FOX News, April 4-5, 2006

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay significantly higher prices for some goods and services should that be the result of tighter control of the southern U.S. border and a resulting lower number of undocumented workers.
Zogby Poll, March 31-April 3, 2006

Fifty-six percent of Americans polled say the U.S. should NOT grant temporary-worker status to foreigners who are here illegally, as this would make them and their families eligible for government services while they are here. We should not reward people who have broken the law, and this will encourage even more people to enter the United States illegally.
NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, March 10-13, 2006

Fifty-three percent of Americans oppose President Bush's guest worker-amnesty plan for illegal aliens from Mexico.
Hart/McInturff / The Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll, April, 2005

Fourteen percent of Americans "strongly favor" President Bush's proposal to allow foreigners who have jobs but are staying illegally in the United States to apply for legal, temporary-worker status.
Angus Reid Global Scan, April 2005

Two-thirds of likely voters in Florida oppose a plan to allow some illegal aliens to live and work legally in the U.S.
Research 2000 Florida Poll, March, 2005

72 percent of Mexican migrants said the would participate in a program that offered the prospect amnesty for illegal aliens who lived here for five years, continued working and had no problems with legal authorities. Respondents who said they had no U.S.-issued ID were even more positive (79 percent).
Pew Hispanic Center survey of Mexican migrants, March 2005

Fifty-seven percent of respondents oppose a program in which illegal aliens would be allowed to live and work legally in the United States.
Westhill Partners/Hotline Poll, February, 2005

Sixty-eight percent of Texans say the federal government shoud not make it easier for illegal aliens to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Scripps Howard Texas Poll, March 2004

Fifty-six percent of adults say they'd oppose a program in which illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico would be allowed to live and work legally in the United States.
Gallup Poll, Feb. 9-12, 2004

No issue upset the public more than President Bush' amnesty/guestworker proposals, with only one-third of Americans supporting him on that.
CBS News/New York Times Poll, January 2004

Seventy-four percent of resondents believe the U.S. should NOT make it easier for illegal aliens to become citizens of the U.S.
CNN/Gallup/USA Today Poll, January 2004

Fifty-two percent of Americans oppose President Bush's guest worker-amnesty program for illegal aliens from Mexico; 57 percent oppose such a program for illegal aliens from other countries. Furthermore, at least twice as many Americans strongly oppose the proposal as strongly support it.
ABC News Poll, January, 2004

Americans, 2 to 1, oppose granting amnesty to illegal aliens.
Zogby Poll, June 2002

Americans oppose amnesty, nearly 2 to 1. Hispanics are less likely to vote to reelect Pres. Bush if he supports amnesty.
Zogby Poll, September 2001

Nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.
Gallup Poll, August 2001 national poll of 1,000 adults

61 percent of Americans oppose granting amnesty to illegal aliens.
Harris poll, August, 2001
Re: El Gran Paro: Standing with Immigrants on May 1
01 May 2006
You keep posting the polls from 2001. Where are the actual question that were asked in the polls? The web site you got that from is selling you a bunch of spin. wheeeeeee.