A Day Without Immigrants
Today, illegal aliens are supposed to exit the economy for 24 hours to demonstrate what life would be like without them.
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.
The obvious question is Why doesn’t the Border Patrol go round these people up and deport them? It’s their job and it’s certainly easier than trying to catch them as they slink across a gigantic border in the middle of the night.
If the answer is that we don’t have the national stomach to do that, then the protestors’ message is already self-evident but unacknowledged. Indeed, if they manage to do this in a dignified manner–i.e., marching quietly and not under inflammatory banners and foreign flags–this strikes me as the perfect way to get their point across. Rather than “This land is rightfully ours, anyway” the message should be “You want us here as much as we want to be here.”
But, as a page 1 story in WaPo by Krissah Williams and Karin Brulliard reveals, there is a “rift” in the activist community over the strategic vision.
Some local activists predicted that thousands of Washington area immigrants would participate in a national economic boycott today, but immigrant groups who have spoken out against the boycott said they fear that the immigration reform movement is being commandeered to promote political causes beyond immigration.
The public tug of war, which continued in the Washington area yesterday on Spanish-language radio, could result in more limited participation in the region than is expected in Dallas and Los Angeles, where the organizers of last month’s massive protests have been more unified in support of today’s boycott, which asks immigrants to refrain from buying goods and to stay home from work and school.
Monica Davey makes a similar point in the NYT:
Would large numbers of immigrants stay away from their jobs, from schools and from spending money for what some organizers are calling the Great American Boycott of 2006? Or would more simply attend demonstrations, prayer services and voter registration drives on International Workers Day, as other leaders, who do not support a boycott, have urged? “A walkout really isn’t the constructive way — it’s the opposite of what should be happening,” said Alberto Lopez, a spokesman for Harrah’s Entertainment, the casino company, where prominent banners and petitions calling for immigration reform (to be delivered, ultimately, to members of Congress) have been placed in employee dining halls. But, in the end, no one was certain what workers would choose to do.
Across the country, immigration advocates themselves have been divided over the notion of a sweeping boycott as a method of protest. Supporters say it would reveal the size of the country’s dependence on immigrant workers and remind Congress of the power behind their voices at a crucial time when leaders in Washington are arguing over whether to allow millions of illegal immigrants to become legal. Opponents, though, say a walkout might erode support for the central goals, and could cause immigrants to be disciplined at their jobs and at school.
We’ll see soon enough. My guess is that it will not so much be the act of walking out but the manner that will decide.
Update (1400): A Day Without Immigrants is apparently much like any other day, at least according to a preliminary assessment by the Washington Post.
Washington area immigrants do not appear to be heeding the call for a national economic boycott in overwhelming numbers this morning, although some businesses have closed because employees are absent and at least one day-laborer center reported fewer would-be workers showing up than normal.
Leaders of local immigrant groups said the real impact of the boycott would not be fully known until this afternoon or this evening. But anecdotal accounts — and earlier interviews with advocates who were divided over whether immigrants should participate in the boycott — suggested that while some were staying home from work, their action was not widespread.
Update (1451): Rep. Jack Kingston has written a letter to Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of DHS for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should pursue the multiple reports in the news media today regarding companies which have been forced to halt operations because large numbers of their employees appear to be in the United States illegally and are participating in the protest rallies.
ICE has an obligation to use this public information to enforce immigration laws. We respectfully request that you look into this matter and report back to us on your findings.
Again, under current law, a fair point.