May 1 – Boycott and Demonstrate for Immigrant Rights

This Monday, May 1, pro-immigrant rights leaders and organizations are asking undocumented and documented residents (and others in solidarity) to boycott their jobs, shops, employers, and schools. “The Great American Boycott” is part of a long and rich tradition of civil disobedience in our continual struggle to improve the lives and rights of all people living on this land.

There have also been demonstrations, vigils, and marches planned that day throughout the country for the same issues: full and complete amnesty for some 12 million undocumented people, and a fair and fast immigration policy for those still needing to come here.

Already some well-known people have gone against the boycott, apparently concerned this will disrupt the economic and social life of the country for a day, resulting in an unwanted backlash. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney is one of the most vocal opponents of the boycott.

And, interesting enough, so is President Bush.

“I think it's very important for people, when they do express themselves, they continue to do so in a peaceful way, in a respectful way—respectful of how highly charged this debate can become,” the President said Friday. “One of the things that's very important is when we debate this issue that we not lose our national soul.”

The fact is the millions of people who have demonstrated, marches, and walked out of schools or their jobs since late March have been peaceful. This has been one of the most peaceful massive human mobilizations in recent history.

The work boycotts are meant to escalate the power of the message that apparently have yet to be heeded by Congress enacting new immigration laws—the people will not accept anything less than the full rights accorded any human being, be they documented or not.

Bush and some of those who have gone against the Boycott appear to be “scolding” their children. That's how much disdain they have for the people.

For the most part, immigrants have worked extremely hard (against great odds), have paid taxes, lived lawful lives, and continue to enrich this country. They have full capacity to think, to organize, to plan, and to implement. They should not be told what will work for them or be scared from what they need to do to win these rights.

A backlash has always existed—it did so against Gandhi's movement, against Martin Luther King Jr., against Cesar Chavez, against revolutionaries in Mexico like Emiliano Zapata, against the US revolutionaries of 1776. Since when did strategies and tactics get determined by a backlash?

I agree—the peaceful way is the best. But this has been a long-gone conclusion. Every tactic and planned action so far has peace built into them. When it can become violent is when the powers that be decide to carry out their plans to criminalize undocumented people as felons, to build 700-foot walls on the border to the tune of $8 billion, or to isolate and attack the most vulnerable workers in the workplace and our communities.

Since the marches and demonstrations in late March and early April, Homeland Security's immigration authorities have carried out highly publicized raids of hundreds of undocumented workers. There was at least one instance of a Mexican restaurant burned (with anti-immigrant messages scrawled on the walls). There have been a few violent confrontations against peaceful students walking out of schools (including wanton attacks by police and anti-immigrant students), death threats to Latino politicians, and even a terrible instance in which a Latino youth, 15, was beaten and sodomized during a party by two teenagers as they spit out anti-Mexican statements.

Bush should address that violence—the real violence occurring in this struggle.

I ask Bush, “What about the national soul that erodes when radio stations put out anti-Mexican slogans, Minutemen pit groups (African Americans and other US workers) against immigrants, and people create video games in which Mexicans, including women with children, can be “killed” for points?"

The “Great Boycott” is on. People who feel strongly about this issue will not work, shop, or carry on any normal business interactions that day. Others who may lose their jobs, their livelihoods, or their homes can choose to take part in the many demonstrations. Many will do both.

The point is we must be heard. We must not let up the amazing national efforts that have rocked this country and the world.

Nobody wants violence. But we must demand justice, rights, and dignity. We are not anyone's children. People will choose what to do—the message, however, must be loud, clear, and united.

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