Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigrant-Rights Report: Monday = May Day, 2006

Immigrants Take to U.S. Streets in Show of Strength: Posted 10:00 PM / PDT=PSL
May 2, 2006

LOS ANGELES, May 1 — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters skipped work, school and shopping on Monday and marched in dozens of cities from coast to coast.

The demonstrations did not bring the nation to a halt as planned by some organizers, though they did cause some disruptions and conveyed in peaceful but sometimes boisterous ways the resolve of those who favor loosening the country's laws on immigration.

Originally billed as a nationwide economic boycott under the banner "Day Without an Immigrant," the day evolved into a sweeping round of protests intended to influence the debate in Congress over granting legal status to all or most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The protesters, a mix of illegal immigrants and legal residents and citizens, were mostly Latino, but in contrast to similar demonstrations in the past two months, large numbers of people of other ethnicities joined or endorsed many of the events. In some cases, the rallies took on a broader tone of social action, as gay rights advocates, opponents of the war in Iraq and others without a direct stake in the immigration debate took to the streets.

"I think it's only fair that I speak up for those who can't speak for themselves," said Aimee Hernandez, 28, one of an estimated 400,000 people who turned out in Chicago, the site of one of the largest demonstrations. "I think we're just too many that you can't just send them back. How are you going to ignore these people?"

But among those who favor stricter controls on illegal immigration, the protests hardly impressed.

"When the rule of law is dictated by a mob of illegal aliens taking to the streets, especially under a foreign flag, then that means the nation is not governed by a rule of law — it is a mobocracy," Jim Gilchrist, a founder of the Minutemen Project, a volunteer group that patrols the United States-Mexico border, said in an interview.

While the boycott, an idea born several months ago among a small group of grass-roots immigration advocates here, may not have shut down the country, it was strongly felt in a variety of places, particularly those with large Latino populations.

Stores and restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York closed because workers did not show up or as a display of solidarity with demonstrators. In Los Angeles, the police estimated that more than half a million people attended two demonstrations in and near downtown. School districts in several cities reported a decline in attendance; at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, only 17 percent of the students showed up, even though administrators and some protest organizers had urged students to stay in school.

Lettuce, tomatoes and grapes went unpicked in fields in California and Arizona, which contribute more than half the nation's produce, as scores of growers let workers take the day off. Truckers who move 70 percent of the goods in ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., did not work.

Meatpacking companies, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, closed plants in the Midwest and the West employing more than 20,000 people, while the flower and produce markets in downtown Los Angeles stood largely and eerily empty.

Israel Banuelos, 23, and more than 50 of his colleagues skipped work, with the grudging acceptance of his employer, an industrial paint plant in Hollister, Calif.

"We were supposed to work," Mr. Banuelos said, "but we wanted to close down the company. Our boss didn't like it money-wise."

The economic impact of the day's events was hard to gauge, though economists expected a one-day stoppage to have little long-term effect. In large swaths of the country, life went on with no noticeable difference. But protesters in numerous cities, many clad in white and waving mostly American flags in response to complaints that earlier rallies featured too many Latin American ones, declared victory as chanting throngs shut down streets.

Most of the demonstrators' ire was directed at a bill passed by the House that would increase security at the border while making it a felony for an illegal immigrant to be in the country or to aid one. The marchers generally favored a plan in the Senate, for which President Bush has shown signs of support, that would include more protection at the border but offer many illegal workers a path to citizenship.

Still, the divide among advocates over the value and effectiveness of a boycott resulted in some cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, playing host to two sizable demonstrations, one organized by boycotters and the other by people neutral or opposed to it.

That split played out across the country. While many business owners warned employees about taking the day off, many others also sought to negotiate time off or other ways to register workers' sentiments.

Las Vegas casinos reported few disruptions, partly because many of their owners announced their support for workers at a news conference last week. On Monday, more than 40 casinos set up tables in employee lunchrooms for workers to sign pro-immigration petitions. Leaders of Local 226 of the Culinary Workers Union also urged members to go to work. The union is Las Vegas's largest hospitality union, representing 50,000 workers, of which 40 percent are Hispanic. Smaller businesses in Las Vegas, where tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on the Strip, also took a hit. Javier Barajas said he closed his family's four Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas because members of his staff warned him they would not show up, costing him more than $60,000 in revenue.

"I cannot fire anybody over this, but I would have liked to see some other way to express themselves," said Mr. Barajas, who was once an illegal immigrant from central Mexico but became a United States citizen. "It's the small businesses that are hurt by this."

For many immigrants, however, it was just another workday.

At a Home Depot in Hollywood, day laborers as always crowded parking lot entrances, hoping for work. At a car wash in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, employees buzzed, with workers vacuuming, buffing and drying cars. People lined up at markets, though some reported slower business.

"I was thinking about not buying things, but then I needed to buy stuff," said Alex Sanchez, 28, a construction worker buying an avocado, chilies and beer.

The boycott grew from an idea hatched by a small band of grass-roots advocates in Los Angeles, inspired by the farmworker movement of the 1960's led by Cesar Chavez and Bert Corona. Through the Internet and mass media catering to immigrants, they developed and tapped a network of union organizers, immigrant rights groups and others to spread the word and plan events tied to the boycott, timed to coincide with International Workers' Day.

The Los Angeles organizers said some 70 cities held boycott activities.

The day spawned all manner of supportive actions here. A department store chain offered space for lawyers to give legal advice to immigrants; in Hollywood, the comedian Paul Rodriguez appeared at the comedy club the Laugh Factory to promote a daylong health care fair for immigrant workers.

In Chicago, there was solidarity in diversity, as Latinos were joined by immigrants of Polish, Irish, Asian and African descent. Jerry Jablonski, 30, said he had moved to Chicago from Poland six years ago, flying to Mexico and then crossing the border. He now works a construction job. "Poland is my old country," Mr. Jablonski said. "This is my new country. I can make everything happen here."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Cindy Chang from Los Angeles, Steve Friess from Las Vegas, Carolyn Marshall from Watsonville, Calif., and Gretchen Ruethling from Chicago.


Immigration Dissent Sweeps L.A. and the Nation: 8:09 PM PDT, May 1, 2006
By Michael Muskal, Times Staff Writer

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers and their supporters demonstrated today in Los Angeles and flexed their political and economic muscles in support of an overhaul of national immigration policy.

About 250,000 people attended the early demonstration in front of City Hall and a crowd estimated at more than 400,000 worked its way from MacArthur Park to La Brea Avenue in the afternoon. Tens of thousands more demonstrated across the region and hundreds of thousands took to the streets from coast to coast.

At 7:40 p.m., with the words "Go in peace, God bless America" echoing from the stage at La Brea and Wilshire, the afternoon march officially ended. A huge crows remained, but many began drifting away, as they had been for a couple hours.

It was hard to get an exact number of those protesting because many who attended the early rally also moved to the later one. But the final number was likely to approach or surpass the record rally on March 25 when half a million people protested federal efforts to make enforcement tougher on undocumented immigrants.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa estimated nearly a million people demonstrated throughout the day. "We come to work, we come for a better life, we come to participate for the American dream," he told the marchers on Wilshire at La Brea this evening.

The local protests, part of a national day of demonstration, was in response to efforts by Congress to overhaul immigration policy for the first time in two decades. But it has become something more, a cry from the normally hidden undocumented community for a way to socially and economically come into the sunlight.

"If we didn't come, who will build the houses?" asked Jose Abrego, 40, from Acapulco, one of the thousands in MacArthur Park. "We're not flowers. We're not asking to be treated delicately. We just want respect." Abrego said he came in July to do construction work so he could save money to build his own house back home, where he earned about $100 a week driving trucks. Here he earns about $400 a week. "We are asking the rich of the United States to respect us," he said.

It was a day of jubilation for demonstrators across the city. Those congregating in front of City Hall had marched blocks through downtown, where seldom anyone is seen walking. It was the second major demonstration to rock the city in less than two months as festive protesters paraded to the Latin rhythms. Across the street from their destination, they heard the blaring of Neil Diamond's "America," which has become an immigrant musical cry.

"I am part of this," said Ofelia Luna, 42, now a U.S. citizen after holding a green card for nearly two decades. "I want my voice to be heard."

The biggest cheers seemed to come around 1:40 p.m. when the popular disc jockey, Eddy "El Piolin" Sotelo spoke. "We have the same heart, we believe in the same God," he told the crowd.

Rev. Lewis Logan II, pastor at Bethel AME Church in South L.A., also praised the crowd: "A power more powerful than Katrina has been unleashed here in Los Angeles." Speaking from a raised platform at the side of City Hall, he got his biggest cheers when he said, "What are we here for?"

The crowd responded: "To triumph, to succeed." Many waved their U.S. flags, bought from vendors for $2 along the route.

In the nearby bastions of municipal power, officials monitored the situation on the streets.

"All is well," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had urged students to stay in school and away from the earlier demonstration, told reporters at a later briefing. "This march — protest, as it's developed, has been very peaceful as we suspected from the beginning."

The mayor's teenage son had planned to join the protests after school with his father's approval. Villaraigosa did not speak at the downtown rally, but said he might at the later demonstration, depending on his schedule. He was to fly to Dallas at 7 p.m. to lobby NFL owners for a professional football team in Los Angeles.

"I'm mayor for all the people," Villaraigosa said. "But without question, I'm also someone who is a proud American, [and] also proud of where my family came from. I've never been shy about the fact that these people out here want to be a part of the American dream. I support them. I don't necessarily have to make every single demonstration to manifest that support."

The crowd overflowed City Hall Plaza and filled the green areas that serve as a buffer for the official buildings. Dressed in white for peace, people waved American flags as they roared what they hope would be a demand heard across the nation in Washington.

Many then went home, but others headed to MacArthur Park for the second march down Wilshire Boulevard to La Brea Avenue. There, too, the mood was festive at they chanted and blew horns.

"This is America," said Juan Medina, 54, from Guatemala, as the crowds filed through the park, a sea of white shirts and waving flags. He said he spent the day painting houses because, "I need to work." He stood with a group of construction workers from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador — hesitant at first, then growing animated with the crowd, feeling their strength in the numbers.

"When the Mayflower came from England, they were people looking for freedom and to follow God. Now these people are rich and powerful. They need to go back to having a big, good heart, to following God," Medina said.

The scene was similar to the earlier rally when many of the demonstrators appeared in white shirts and jeans. They also wore their disparate backgrounds like identity badges: Men from the Mexican countryside wore straw hats and handlebar mustaches, while Los Angeles-bred boys strutted in sunglasses and baggy pants. Politically active women wore T-shirts with pictures of the Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, while many teenagers came in bare-midriff tops and tight pants.

The demonstrators also came in Central American guayabera shirts and soccer shirts, they wore tattoos and they wrapped giant American flags around their shoulders like Mexican shawls. They were smiling, walking with a bounce in their step. One held a sign that said, "All Gringos Are Immigrants."

Many said they had not come to previous demonstrations and felt they had missed something. They said they planned to join the afternoon march, as well.

Candido Henriquez, 42, held a sign that said: "We are not criminals. Why do they treat us like animals? We are workers and we deserve respect."

Demonstrations took place across the Southland. In one of the earliest marches of the day, as many as 10,000 people stepped off from Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Maywood, coursing down Atlantic Boulevard in southeast L.A. County. As the march moved, its ranks swelled with others from communities such as Huntington Park, Arlington and Bell Gardens. These are the communities where the Mexican American dream has unfolded, the step up for immigrants who have earned a degree of economic stability.

The mood was jubilant, and the symbol of choice was an American flag. Marchers also carried signs, proclaiming "Hoy Marchamos, Manana Votamos."(Today We March; Tomorrow We Vote.) They chanted "Si su puede," and "Aqui estamos y no nos vamos," "We're here and we're not leaving."

Other demonstrations were planned in Pasadena, Pomona, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Riverside, San Diego, Oxnard, Huntington Park, Long Beach and San Bernardino.

Today's protests represent an evolution of ideas since an estimated 500,000 people rallied on March 25 in front of Los Angeles City Hall to protest the stricter plan that passed the House of Representatives last year. That bill would make being an undocumented worker and those who helped them a felony.

Relying on the Latino media, especially radio personalities, and high-tech communications, the rally caught the Anglo establishment flat-footed. In the following days, schools, particularly in Southern California, were forced to close as students repeatedly walked out to support immigration rights.

Hilda Ramirez, a spokeswoman for LAUSD, said no major walkouts had been reported early this morning, but that the absentee rate was at 27% -- nearly three times that of the same day last year when only 10% of students did not attend classes.

The second major protest was April 10, when at least hundreds of thousands of people peacefully rallied across the country for broader immigrant rights. Organizers put the number in the millions across the country, but the Los Angeles protest was on the order of thousands.

Organizers were hoping for a major turnout today for demonstrations that were based on the idea of making the Latino presence felt politically, but also economically by boycotting businesses. It was being organized by dozens of groups under the slogan of Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes — A Day Without Immigrants.

A hand-scrawled sign on the Pasadena Freeway last week warned motorists in Spanish: "No work, no school, no buying, no selling." As far away as Mexico, activists echoed the boycott call, urging people to forgo U.S. companies and even to skip American fast food outlets.

It was difficult to tell what impact the boycotts were having, but there were some signs. At the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market and the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, business was below normal. There were also scattered reports of closed restaurants and shops. Virtually all of the stores were closed along Whittier and Cesar Chavez, two main boulevards of heavily Latino neighborhoods in East Los Angeles. At Nico's Market, near the Ramona Gardens housing projects in Boyle Heights, a sign in Spanish announced, "This Monday, May 1, we close the store to support the immigrants."

The immediate impact was borne by small businesses and low-paid workers.

Ana Miriam Garcia, 52, said her boss decided to close for the day -- and to dock them a day's pay. "If I don't work, I don't eat," said Garcia, a Salvadoran immigrant who became a citizen after the 1986 amnesty. Garcia said she earns minimum wage at a sewing factory and said she suffers when she can't work, even for one day. "What can I do?" she said.

Still, the long-term impact was expected to be minimal. Except for meals, purchases given up today can be made up tomorrow. Many businesses, including service and manufacturing industries, had employees work through the weekend to get ahead so that today's closings would not be disastrous.

Today's boycotts also politically split the Latino community. Those calling for the boycotts tended to be from non-traditional groups, while leaders of established institutions urged students to stay in class and were neutral at best about whether workers should take the day off for the morning protest. That division was clearly illustrated in Southern California.

Mayor Villaraigosa, the first Latino in more than 130 years to have the city's top job, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on Sunday repeated their pleas that students not take part in the day's activities until after school. Villaraigosa also warned motorists to prepare for gridlock in the affected areas.

Demonstrators today again wore white as a gesture of peace and waved U.S. flags in the hopes of decreasing any backlash. Organizers have urged protesters to avoid carrying Mexican flags or singing the national anthem in any language other than English. A Spanish version of the anthem, released last week, sparked complaints, including from President Bush.

Over the weekend, some groups, which call for tougher enforcement against illegal immigrants, held their own demonstrations along the U.S.-Mexican border and promised more protests. About 200 volunteers organized by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California worked on a 6-foot barbed-wire fence along a quarter-mile stretch of rugged terrain near the U.S.-Mexico border about 50 miles east of San Diego.

The U.S. government has also vowed to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. And there have been well-publicized raids by immigration authorities, rounding up hundreds of immigrants with criminal backgrounds in Florida and the Midwest.

Still, most polls show that Americans favor changes in immigration policy by better than a ratio of 2 to 1 and that Californians are even more supportive. Americans tell pollsters that they would like to see a guest worker program and some sort of plan that would lead to citizenship for those in the United States.

Staff writers Hector Beccera, David Colker, Arin Gencer, Anna Gorman, Duke Helfand, Rong-Gong Lin II, Marjorie Miller, Bob Pool, Sam Quinones, Joel Rubin, Jesus Sanchez and Molly Selvin contributed to this report.


CHICAGO: Immigrant rights demonstration: Continuous e-mail updates from Tribune reporters covering today's march and rally in downtown Chicago [Digest Edit PSL]

Published May 1, 2006, 7:52 PM CDT

7:52 p.m. At a wrap-up news conference Monday night, Office of Emergency Management and Communications Executive Director Andrew Velasquez said there were no arrests during the rally. The office handled 10 ambulance calls -- "none of which were trauma" – with more than 200 firefighters, paramedics and other Chicago Fire Department personnel on hand, Velasquez said.
Although the rally attracted about 400,000 demonstrators, "at no time, I repeat at no time, was order disrupted," he said. After the demonstration, crews from the Department of Streets and Sanitation cleaned up what they regarded as a "moderate" amount of debris.

Deputy Supt. of Police Charles Williams said the 400,000 people "were able to peaceably march and get their message out without breaking the law." Williams credited march organizers.
"What we had were organizers who had volunteers along the march route to keep the peace," Williams said. "They helped police themselves, which assists us."

Velasquez declined to discuss how much the city spent due to the rally. "It's very premature to talk about costs," he said. The crowd in Grant Park has dwindled to a few thousand. The rest are dispersing.

4:39 p.m.: Cardinal Francis George, speaking at the rally's interfaith prayer service, says the issue is one of respect for human rights. "Respect is the reason we are together this afternoon," George says. "Families should not be divided. Husbands should not be separated from their wives, or mothers from their children." "People who have been part of this country's social and economic fabric for years should not now be treated as if they do not count, as if their contribution can simply be dismissed and they, sent away," the cardinal adds. George calls on the U.S. to "clean up the inhuman situation that marks our borders and shames us all," and on Congress "to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation."

Other scheduled speakers include U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago).

4:17 p.m.: Charles Williams of Chicago Police Department now estimates the crowd at 400,000.
He says no arrests were reported as of about 3:45 p.m. One person needed emergency medical service and transport by the Chicago Fire Department after fainting. A few kids ended up at the lost child tent. Williams says there have been no huge traffic hassles and he calls the demonstration "a very good march."

4:02 p.m.: Cheers erupt as speakers, almost equally in Spanish and English, praise the crowd for their activism and commitment. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the architect of a plan to legalize illegal immigrants, said: "This is not just a march. You are setting a newer pathway to a more democratic, more compassionate America."

Jose Artemio Arreola, a key march organizer and executive with a federation of immigrants from the Mexican state of Michoacan says, "For those of you who are exhausted, for those of you who walked, your work and sacrifice has been worth it."

Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1, says it is important to protect the labor rights of immigrants who help clean offices, take care of hospital patients and work in factories. "It is time for us to go into the deepest values of our country, to honor those who work hard and build our country," he says. There's a large union presence with many non-immigrant participants wearing T-shirts and jackets from their locals.

2:58 p.m. On the way to Grant Park, the dominant chant was "si se puede" (yes, it can be done). No matter their apparent background, participants raised the Spanish chant to support their Latino comrades….. [ See Websource for rest…]

Tribune staff reporters Oscar Avila, Antonio Olivo, Barbara Rose and Hal Dardick contributed.
[BOTTOM] =from Chicago Tribune


Thousands join Sacramento immigration march: By Bee Metro Staff
Published 11:12 am PDT Monday, May 1, 2006
[Updated at 3:45 p.m.] Thousands of people in Sacramento gathered at Southside Park for a march to the Capitol on Monday, joining others across the nation to showcase immigrants' contributions to the U.S. economy.

Whether they're citizens, legal residents or undocumented, millions of Latinos were responding to a call for a national boycott of work, school and shopping in what some have also dubbed "The Great American Boycott."

"It’s survival. People would not be here if they could have the same life in Mexico that they have here," said Hilda Casillas, a naturalized citizen and Sacramento State student studying business administration. "This is a pursuit of life. This is survival."

Activists hope the boycott will not only showcase immigrants' contributions to the U.S. economy, but highlight widespread opposition to proposed laws they believe would hypocritically punish illegal immigrants without owning up to the U.S. role in encouraging them to come.

"I know I’m taking a risk, but it's so much more worth it to sacrifice one for the many," said Norma Luera, 43, who took the day off from her job at Sutter Health Hospital to march. Responding to critics of the march, she said, "We’re all immigrants. How can they not see that?"

Sacramento Police said between 15,000 and 18,000 people ultimately took part in Monday's demonstrations in California's capital.

"We're not terrorists. We're just workers, and they accuse us of everything," said Cayeano Hernandez, 67, a Sacramento resident who became a legal U.S. resident during the 1986 immigration reform. Hernandez, who still works in the tomato fields in Davis, said some of his children still haven't become legal residents because of backlogs in the legal system.

Marchers carried American flags, some Mexican flags and other white flags that said "We are America's hard workers and good people. Reform for all the immigrants."

The Chicano tradition of protest art was on display in the march. Thousands of people wore about a half dozen different silk-screen T-shirts with slogans such as "Unidos." Posters also were ubiquitous with messages such as, "If we must die, die defending our rights."

"It's great to see local artists take on the responsibility of making posters that carry messages," said Dominick Porras, a local photographer. "(Protest art) is definitely still being carried on through generation after generation and I think it will continue."

Protestors continued to arrive by the hundreds as the march continued. It included thousands of students who took the day off from school, even though education officials had urged them last week not to do so.

Among them was Martha Huratdo, an eighth-grader at Martin Luther King, who said district officials probably aren't happy. "I think they are going to be mad because they will lose money," she said.

The Woodland Joint Unified School District reported more than 3,000 students absent -- almost one-third of the district's total enrollment. Other districts were still counting absences by late-morning. In the Sacramento City Unified School District, at least 2,000 students were out. But most schools had not yet reported their absences so the number was expected to grow by the end of the day.

The Sacramento City absences included: 280 from Luther Burbank High School, 160 from Hiram Johnson High School, 127 from Elder Creek Elementary School, 180 from American Legion High School and 243 from Will C. Wood Elementary School, said spokeswoman Maria Lopez. "It looks like at schools with a high Latino population, there is about a 20 percent drop in attendance," Lopez said. Some district schools reported as many as 35 percent of their students out.

Most districts planned to mark students with an unexcused absence for skipping school. Officials with the state Department of Education said it would be weeks or months before they would know the extent of student absences across the 1,000 school districts in California.

At least one man was on the scene Monday to protest the protests. He held a sign reading "Invade Mexico." Event organizers urged participants to ignore him.

Monday's protest is the latest in demonstrations ignited by the passage of a House of Representatives bill last December that would convert an estimated 11 to 12 million immigrants, mostly Latino, into instant felons.

Activists hope protests, along with lobbying from businesses, will convince the Senate to pass alternative reform with an earned legalization for some illegal immigrants and an expansion in work-related visas to fill labor shortages.

Bee Staff Writers Ed Fletcher, Susan Ferriss, Chris Macias, Laurel Rosenhall and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


Immigrants Walk Off the Job in Boycott
Immigrants Walk Off Jobs, Into Streets Attempting to Show Economic Clout
By GILLIAN FLACCUS: The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Hundreds of thousands of mostly Hispanic immigrants skipped work and took to the streets Monday, flexing their economic muscle in a nationwide boycott that succeeded in slowing or shutting many farms, factories, markets and restaurants.

From Los Angeles to Chicago, Houston to New Orleans, the "Day Without Immigrants" attracted widespread participation despite divisions among activists over whether a boycott would send the right message to Washington lawmakers considering sweeping immigration reform.

"We are the backbone of what America is, legal or illegal, it doesn't matter," said Melanie Lugo, who was among thousands attending a rally in Denver with her husband and their third-grade daughter. "We butter each other's bread. They need us as much as we need them."

Police estimated 400,000 people marched through Chicago's business district and tens of thousands more rallied in New York and Los Angeles, where police stopped giving estimates at 60,000 as the crowd kept growing.

An estimated 75,000 rallied in Denver, more than 15,000 in Houston and 30,000 more across Florida. Smaller rallies in cities from Pennsylvania and Connecticut to Arizona and South Dakota attracted hundreds not thousands.

In Los Angeles, protesters wearing white and waving U.S. flags sang the national anthem in English as traditional Mexican dancers wove through the crowd. In Chicago, illegal immigrants from Ireland and Poland marched alongside Hispanics as office workers on lunch breaks clapped. In Phoenix, protesters formed a human chain in front of Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores. A protest in Tijuana, Mexico blocked vehicle traffic heading to San Diego at the world's busiest border crossing.

Many carried signs in Spanish that translated to "We are America" and "Today we march, tomorrow we vote." Others waved Mexican flags or wore hats and scarves from their native countries. Some chanted "USA" while others shouted slogans, such as "Si se puede!," Spanish for "Yes, it can be done!" Others were more irreverent, wearing T-shirts that read "I'm illegal. So what?"

The White House reacted coolly. "The president is not a fan of boycotts," said press secretary Scott McClellan. "People have the right to peacefully express their views, but the president wants to see comprehensive reform pass the Congress so that he can sign it into law."

The boycott was organized by immigrant activists angered by federal legislation that would criminalize illegal immigrants and fortify the U.S-Mexico border. Its goal was to raise awareness about immigrants' economic power.

Industries that rely on immigrant workers were clearly affected, though the impact was not uniform. Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat producer, shuttered about a dozen of its more than 100 plants and saw "higher-than-usual absenteeism" at others. Most of the closures were in states such as Iowa and Nebraska. Eight of 14 Perdue Farms chicken plants also closed for the day.
None of the 175 seasonal laborers who normally work Mike Collins' 500 acres of Vidalia onion fields in southeastern Georgia showed up.

"We need to be going wide open this time of year to get these onions out of the field," he said. "We've got orders to fill. Losing a day in this part of the season causes a tremendous amount of problems."

It was the same story in Indiana, where the owner of a landscaping business said he was at a loss. About 25 Hispanic workers 90 percent of the field work force never reported Monday to Salsbery Brothers Landscaping.

"We're basically shut down in our busiest month of the year," said owner Jeff Salsbery. "It's going to cost me thousands of dollars."

In the Los Angeles area, restaurants and markets were dark and truckers avoided the nation's largest shipping port. About one in three small businesses was closed downtown, including the cluttered produce market and fashion district.

The construction and nursery industries were among the hardest hit by the work stoppage in Florida. Bill Spann, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Greater Florida said more than half the workers at construction sites in Miami-Dade County did not show up Monday.

"If I lose my job, it's worth it," said Jose Cruz, an immigrant from El Salvador who protested with several thousand others in the rural Florida city of Homestead rather than work his construction job. "It's worth losing several jobs to get my papers."

The impact on schools was significant. In the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District, which is 73 percent Hispanic, about 72,000 middle and high school students were absent roughly one in every four.

In San Francisco, Benita Olmedo pulled her 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son from school.
"I want my children to know their mother is not a criminal," said Olmedo, a nanny who came here illegally in 1986 from Mexico. "I want them to be as strong I am. This shows our strength."

In the normally bustling Port of Long Beach, about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, was eerily quiet, with many truck drivers avoiding work. Lunch truck operator Sammy Rodriguez, 77, said 100 trucks normally line up in the mornings outside the California United Terminals. On Monday, he said, just three or four showed up.

Some of the rallies drew small numbers of counter-protesters, including one in Pensacola, Fla.
"You should send all of the 13 million aliens home, then you take all of the welfare recipients who are taking a free check and make them do those jobs," said Jack Culberson, a retired Army colonel who attended the Pensacola rally. "It's as simple as that."

Jesse Hernandez, who owns a Birmingham, Ala., company that supplies Hispanic laborers to companies around the Southeast, shut down his four-person office in solidarity with the demonstrations. "Unfortunately," he said, "human nature is that you don't really know what you have until you don‘t have it."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Laura Wides-Munoz in Homestead, Fla.; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Jon Sarche in Denver; Alex Veiga in Long Beach, Calif.; Andrew Dalton and Christina Almeida in Los Angeles; Greg Bluestein in Atlanta; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; Jordan Robertson in San Francisco; Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pa.; and Gregg Aamott in Minneapolis.


U.S. Prepares for 'Day Without Immigrants' =Monday, May 1, 2006 AM

AP - • Thousands of illegal immigrants and their allies across the country plan a show of force Monday to illustrate how much immigrants matter in the U.S. economy.

Some will skip work, others will protest at lunch breaks, school walkouts or at rallies after work. There are planned church services, candlelight vigils, picnics and human chains.

Hector Castillo, a Denver baker, usually keeps his doors open 360 days a year. But anybody looking for his Mexican pastries or cookies will be out of luck Monday when Castillo plans to close his doors in sympathy with immigrants. For Castillo, 45, it's a protest against legislation in the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant.

"About 80 percent of our customers are Latin people, most of them Mexican, and the proposed law will affect all of us," he said.

Thanks to the success of previous rallies plus media attention, planning for Monday's events, collectively called Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes — A Day Without Immigrants — is widespread, though fragmented.

"It's highly unpredictable what's going to happen," said Harley Shaiken, director of the Center for Latin American studies at the University of California. "What unites everyone that's going to do something on May 1 is they are making visible their strong feelings."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday he was concerned that the demonstrations "are going to be a distraction from what the real issue is, and that is the need for comprehensive immigration reform." Rather than a boycott, immigrants should work to pressure Congress to pass legislation that would allow those already in the country to earn U.S. citizenship, Richardson told CBS' "The Early Show."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-Tenn., told CBS that the U.S. should first secure its borders to stem illegal immigration. "I would then prefer to see us come up with some way to let" immigrants here "pay a fine, pay a price, then learn English and get on a path to citizenship."

Some workers and immigrant advocates are worried that employees could lose their jobs or otherwise face negative consequences for skipping work to participate in protests.

"We're not officially coordinating a work stoppage. We are leaving it up to every individual. We don't want people to lose a job, but we want to encourage people to stand up for their rights," said Maria Rodriguez, head of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Activists planned marches, prayers and demonstartions in Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota and other cities around Florida, but organizers did not expect as many people to attend Monday's events as the estimated 75,000 who attended an April 11 rally in Fort Myers.

Activists said a few immigrants lost their jobs after that march, and many were concerned about recent Homeland Security immigration raids, in which hundreds of immigrants with criminal backgrounds were rounded up in Florida and throughout the Midwest.

On the eve of the protest, about 3,000 people rallied for immigrant rights at a park in Lynwood, a heavily Hispanic Los Angeles suburb. Organizers of the demonstration called on residents and businesses to support the boycott.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged students to stay in school during the day and advised protesters against waving flags of their native countries.

"You should wave the American flag," he said. "It's the flag of the country that we all are proud of and want to be a part of. Don't disrespect the traditions of this country."

A rally in Chicago representing the city's Arab, Asian, black, eastern European and Hispanic communities, along with labor groups and religious leaders, could bring out as many as half a million people, organizers say. They urged immigrant workers to ask for time off and encouraged students to get permission to attend the demonstration.

"Stand in solidarity with people of all races and nationalities because immigration legislation does not just affect one group; it affects everyone!" Sadiya Ahmed, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, wrote in a recent e-mail.

In smaller cities such as Allentown, Pa.; Omaha, Neb.; and Knoxville, Tenn., immigrants and their allies have been going door to door with fliers, making posters and sharpening speeches. In New Mexico, restaurants cooked meals this weekend to donate to picnics Monday in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

In Pomona, Calif., about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, dozens of men who frequent a day labor center voted unanimously to close Monday, said Mike Nava, the center's director.

In New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon and Pennsylvania, people boycotting work will march to the offices of elected officials to urge them to support pro-immigrant legislation.

Activists in Florida said many immigrants were concerned about recent federal raids, in which hundreds of immigrants with criminal backgrounds were rounded up in Florida and throughout the Midwest.

"We're not officially coordinating a work stoppage. We are leaving it up to every individual. We don't want people to lose a job, but we want to encourage people to stand up for their rights," said Maria Rodriguez, head of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

In California, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said a boycott would "hurt everyone," while Democratic state senators passed a resolution supporting walkouts.

Opponents of illegal immigration spent the weekend building a fence to symbolize their support of a secure border. About 200 volunteers organized by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California worked on a 6-foot barbed-wire fence along a quarter-mile stretch of rugged terrain near the U.S.-Mexico border about 50 miles east of San Diego.

In each of New York City's five boroughs, thousands of workers were expected to take work breaks shortly after noon to link arms with shoppers, restaurant-goers and other supporters for about 20 minutes.

"This will symbolize the interdependence of all of us, not just immigrants, but all of society," said Chung-Wa Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Some big businesses are shutting down operations: Six of 14 Perdue Farms plants will close; Gallo Wines in Sonoma, Calif., is giving its 150 employees the day off; Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat producer, will shut five of its nine beef plants and four of six pork plants.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged immigrants to attend Mass instead of boycotting, and suggested that churches toll their bells in memory of immigrants who died trying to come to the U.S. They also urged students to stay in school.

Denver-area contractor Chuck Saxton, who hires temporary workers, is sympathetic to the movement. "I'm going to go to support them. These guys come here, they work hard and they're honest," he said. "They provide a vibrancy to our economy and our country that is fading."
Associated Press writers Jon Sarche in Denver, Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami, Peter Prengaman in Los Angeles, Erin Texeira in New York and Nathaniel Hernandez in Chicago contributed to this report.
On the Net:


A Day of Protest - Millions of Latinos are expected to join boycott today
By Susan Ferriss -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, May 1, 2006

Maria Lopez will shut down her meat market today for "A Day Without Immigrants" because she knows what it's like to be one of them - an illegal, a Mexican immigrant who secretly crossed the border more than 20 years ago, at a time when Americans seemed not to care……………

About the writer:
The Bee's Susan Ferriss can be reached at (916) 321-1267 or


A Day Without Immigrants: Millions Expected to Boycott Work, Not Consume to Protest Anti-Immigrant Bill =Monday, May 1st, 2006

Millions of immigrant workers are expected to boycott work and school today in support of nationwide May Day protests against anti-immigrant legislation being considered in Washington. Dubbed "A Day Without Immigrants" protests are planned in over 70 cities. Immigrant rights groups are calling on immigrant workers to not show up for work and to not buy anything all day. [include rush transcript]

Today immigrants" rights groups have called for a nationwide "day without immigrants." In more than 60 cities around the country, hundreds of events are planned to demonstrate the importance of immigrant labor to the economy of the United States.

Walk-outs, boycotts, rallies, teach-ins, marches, and business closings are planned throughout the day. An international protest will takeplace at the San Diego, Tijuana border. In Chicago, massive rallies are planned, one of which will be held in Haymarket Square, where the original Mayday protests occurred in 1886.

In many cities, immigrants and their supporters will link hands at exactly 12:16pm a time meant to symbolize the December 16th passage of the draconian House Immigration Bill HR4437.

Many businesses are also planning to close their doors in a show of solidarity with immigrant laborers. In Texas, the chain Malone's Cost-Plus, which owns over 800 restaurants and nine Dallas supermarkets will close. Here in New York, many stores and businesses have also decided to close their doors today so that their workers can take part in the marches and rallies planned throughout the city.

We speak with four guests about today's planned activities:

Francia Lopera, General Manger of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Park Slope Brooklyn. She is originally from Colombia.

Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization. He is originally from Pakistan.

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.

Jorge Mujica, one of the lead organizers for the March 10 protest in Chicago that drew up to 300,000 people. He is a former journalist and union organizer who has worked for La Raza, Univision, and Telemundo, and has been involved in union organizing in both the US and in Mexico.

AMY GOODMAN: Two guests are joining us today to talk about events. Francia Lopera is General Manager of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is originally from Colombia and made her way to the United States through Mexico. And Mohammad Razvi is with us, a former business owner and the Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization, originally from Pakistan. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

FRANCIA LOPERA: Thank you for inviting us.

AMY GOODMAN: Francia, what are you doing today?

FRANCIA LOPERA: We are protesting in favor of letting immigrants to work. And we come to work. We come to succeed. We don't come to take anything from Americans. We are Americans, too. And we come to work. That's what we want.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you come to this country?

FRANCIA LOPERA: I came in 1989. I came through El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez. It was a long trip, ten days from Colombia.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you come?

FRANCIA LOPERA: Because in my country I didn't find -- you know, the money that you make wasn’t enough to pay the rent or to survive. If you had money to pay the rent, you didn't have money to pay bills or to buy clothes. So, I had the opportunity to come, and I did it. And I have been here 16 years, and I like it. I love it. And I’m an American citizen now.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your fellow workers going to be doing today? Talk about the stores.

FRANCIA LOPERA: We are going to close today, thanks to Marty Medina, the owner. He said he’s going to support the immigrant rights and the march. So we’re going to gather together at the restaurant, and we’re going to walk to Manhattan to protest.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing white.

FRANCIA LOPERA: Yes. It’s a demonstration to support the march.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Razvi, can you talk about your plans today?

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Well, today, what’s happening in the South Asian community in Brooklyn, about over a hundred stores are going to shut their gates down in solidarity with the immigrants rights movement, because we are really concerned with things that are happening against immigrants always. And we were one of the individuals who felt right after 9/11 the impact that it can have, such bills as this draconian bill that just passed.

AMY GOODMAN: You are also wearing white, and you’re wearing a number of pins. Can you describe each of the pins that you’re wearing?

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Absolutely. First of all, this pin, “I love immigrant New York,” is for all the immigrants that are here. We have to realize we are all immigrants here, unless you are a Red Indian, and even they came from somewhere seeking prosperity here. The pin that I wear here of 9/11, that’s the date things changed for me in my life, where I was working with the Fire Department and other city officials, trying to get the people together. This pin that I wear here is from the F.B.I., where I had to release many individuals working hand-in-hand to get them to be released from the federal agents, I.N.S. agents.

AMY GOODMAN: The Pakistani community is perhaps the hardest hit after 9/11.

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Pakistani community was devastated. After 9/11, the things that occurred, this is what I wanted to show you. These are individual cases that had occurred of discrimination.

AMY GOODMAN: For our radio listeners, Mohammad Razvi has a large loose-leaf binder of hundreds of pages in front of him.

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: And these are the things that I’m worried about, because certain laws that are passed, like the PATRIOT Act, which says it’s patriotic. It has nothing to do with patriotism. This law, they label it as border security. It has nothing really to do with border security. And that’s the main thing. It’s just criminalizing individuals, and we don't want to see another community to be devastated as our community has been. That’s why we stand together. And it’s throughout all the South Asian communities -- the Indians, the Bangladesh, all of them are coming together.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization; Francia Lopera from Brooklyn, originally from Colombia, made her way to the United States through Mexico. We’ll be back with them, and we’ll go to Chicago and Los Angeles in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about this day without immigrants, we are joined in the studio by Mohammad Razvi, who is a business leader in Brooklyn, originally from Pakistan. We are also joined by Francia Lopera, General Manager of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Brooklyn. Today at 12:16 Eastern Standard Time around the country, people will stand outside arm-in-arm to mark the time that the House bill 4437 was passed in December. Francia, can you talk about the impact of the original marches and rallies on you. Were you a part of the original ones that happened over these last weeks?

FRANCIA LOPERA: I wasn’t part of that, because, to tell you the truth, I didn't think that it was that big thing. After I saw a show on TV in last week, and I saw that it’s 500 pages of a new law that they want to put, and they want to criminalize all the immigrants, so I wake up and I see that this is going to affect everybody. And, you know, it’s sad that sometimes you only think of yourself, and when it doesn't touch you, you don't care, you are not concerned. But now, I’m very concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned, as a U.S. citizen, for yourself? I mean, you are completely legally here.

FRANCIA LOPERA: Yes, but I have family. I have family that is still -- that don't have papers, and I have to stick for them. And I have friends and, you know, the people that is around us, we are like12 million people here that don't have papers.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Mohammad Razvi, the business community, whether workers or business owners, especially Pakistani, South Asian, Arab American Muslim men very hard hit, are people afraid to take action right now?

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: I think now what’s happening is people are not afraid, because what devastation had to be done, it already occurred in our communities. But we have seen this devastation, and that's why we’re coming out even more to talk about it, to let people know, be careful, we have to get onto this. That’s why we were in the initial steering committee for the April 10th event, where 300,000 people joined us. That’s why we're coming out. We’re making sure that this does not happen to these other communities.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you have much resistance from the business community to close today?

MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Not at all. Not at all. They were like, “We are more than happy to.” And some of them, I told them we only -- you know, close for the whole day, it’s up to you, but close for an hour. They said, “We’re going to close for the whole day.” Some say, “We’re going to close for an hour.” And that’s what it is, and it’s going to start at exactly at 12:16 to mark this day.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Mohammad Razvi, for joining us; Francia Lopera, for joining us. We’re now going to Los Angeles, where we’re joined on the line by Angelica Salas. She is Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

ANGELICA SALAS: It’s a pleasure to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about the plans for today in Los Angeles?

ANGELICA SALAS: Today is going to be an incredible day in Los Angeles. Starting at 9:00, we’re going to start marching throughout L.A. We’re expecting millions of people to take to the streets today to demand their full rights, to demand a stop to HR 4437. We’re going to have a midday rally, and then we’re going to end the day with a rally, where we’re going to shut down one of largest streets in the entire country, Wilshire Boulevard.

And we’re going to be really highlighting immigrant workers. Today is International Workers Day. We really want to say that immigrant workers are essential to this country, that it is impossible for us to continue to pass these horrendous pieces of legislation. And so, we’re also saying, in the same way that we’re against HR 4437, immigrants need legalization. They need citizenship, and they need to be reunited with their families. It will be an incredible day in L.A., and we’re really excited to show the entire country how important we are to this nation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in Chicago by Jorge Mujica, who was one of the lead organizers for the March 10th protest that drew well up to 300,000 people, former journalist and union organizer who has worked for La Raza, Univision, Telemundo. We had him in studio in Chicago when I was there last week. Today, Jorge, talk about the plans.

JORGE MUJICA: Hi, good morning, everybody. This is amazing! This is 7:29 in the morning here in Chicago, and we already have people gathering at Union Park for a march that is being called by – 10:00 a.m. rally and 12:00 noon, the demonstration. So, five hours earlier, people are already showing up here.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about where you are, Jorge?

JORGE MUJICA: We are west of downtown Chicago, and we are going to cross the whole downtown to reach Grant Park, which is by the lake. So to speak, we are going to divide the city, cut it off in two halves, north and south. And we also have [inaudible] marches, around ten [inaudible] marches that are coming from all points of the city, you know, the Westside, Southside, Eastside. We are going to have hundreds of thousands of people here demonstrating today, as there was in Los Angeles. This is a working issue for us today. This is not only about immigration. This is a demonstration of immigrants as workers, and we are marching with fellow workers, American citizens, blacks, whites, Asians, everybody. This is a working day.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jorge Mujica, I want to thank you for joining us from Chicago; and Angelica Salas, thank you for being with us from Los Angeles. We will certainly cover these protests today in your cities and around the country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jeff Salsbery President of the Carmel Indiana Chamber of Commerce and owner of Salsbery Brothers Landscaping in Carmel Indiana told us he recieved a letter from the social security administration in 2000 demanding that he terminate the employement of certain employees listed because their social security numbers were not valid. He terminated them, then about a week later rehired them all back as sub contractors. Jeff Salsbery said he could use this loop hole to keep his valuable illegal imigrants (some with criminal records)employed. Many of those same people are still employed today, but are no longer sub contractors. They are hourly again. While they were subcontractors, they still punched his time clock every day, used all company tools and vehicles and were managed by Salsbery Brothers staff directly. During a round table meeting an employee started asking questions about what would happen if the E-Verify law got passed in Indiana, and stated if it did, Salsbery Brothers would lose at least 50% of its work force, the employee questioning the illegals activity within the company was fired 3 days later. That individual had checked some of the employees social security numbers on a web site to evaluate how many workers would need to be replaced if the law passed. Most of the numbers checked were registered to either dead people or never been issued by the US government. Salsbery Brothers continues to knowingly and openly employ 25-35 illegal aliens to this day while thousands of Indiana families go un-employed.