Boycott Hopes to Highlight Immigrant Power

Immigration advocates around the country are planning to walk off the job, stay home from school and boycott businesses on Monday, May 1. But not all agree with the planned protest — Ed Gordon talks to Ricardo Juarez, coordinator of Mexicans Without Borders in Washington, D.C., a group that supports the protest.

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ED GORDON, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS AND NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon.

On Monday, immigration advocates around the country are planning to stay home from work and boycott businesses. The one-day stoppage is being called a Day Without Immigrants, and is meant to highlight the importance of undocumented workers to the economy. But not all agree with the planned protest. Some say it puts too many low wage workers at risk for losing their jobs.

We'll explore both sides of the issue. Ricardo Juarez the coordinator of Mexicans Without Borders, based in Washington, D.C. The immigrant group supports the protest. I asked him what he hopes Monday's demonstration will achieve as lawmakers consider an immigration overhaul.

Mr. RICARDO JUAREZ (Coordinator, Mexicans Without Borders): Our method is very simple. We want to leave our space empty. Nobody can fill these empty places that we have now, cleaning the restaurants, cleaning the floors, building construction, all the jobs that only the immigrant community are doing.

GORDON: Let me ask you this, Mr. Juarez, you are in fact on your job site. You work construction right now as we speak. One of the concerns that people are going to have is that many people, by not going to work, may in fact be putting their jobs on the line. You're willing to do that?

Mr. JUAREZ: Actually, we had a campaign before, and we are recommending our partner workers to request for a permit prior to these dates in order to don't lose their job. What I find with the partners from my job, what I'm working is that everybody is just supporting this action.

GORDON: In the long run, really, I suspect what people are hoping for, who support this, is really showing America the real work stoppage, if you will, that will happen if many of these people, who are illegal immigrants would not do their jobs. Are you really looking for disruption in the work force on Monday?

Mr. JUAREZ: There is already a campaign, a harassing campaign, and intimidation campaign against this action. So I find that many, many people is afraid. We have to remember that we have now a very big action from the immigration police which is arresting a lot of people everywhere. So this campaign is really affecting our plans. But our main [unintelligible] is not to disrupt the system or the economy. We just want to send the message that we have to be a part of the (unintelligible) or (unintelligible). We must be recognized under fair conditions.

GORDON: What of those who suggest, that if you do this now and it fails--the boycott may not be as large as one had hoped or perhaps did not disrupt the work environment like you hoped--that you don't have anything to go back to that could be as big. Any concern about that at all?

Mr. JUAREZ: After weeks and weeks of debate at the Senate and the public debate, the immigrants we don't have anything in our hand. And there is no signs that the politicians are taking care of that. And we think the immigrants deserve respect. I think Congress needs to do a very, very unrealistic job to fix this problem for the [unintelligible] of the entire country.

GORDON: And Mr. Juarez, what of your status here in the United States. Are you a citizen? Are you waiting to be naturalized? Where do you sit?

Mr. JUAREZ: I am now in process to get my residence. I have 11 years living here, working in construction, and now I have more than seven years waiting for my residence, and I am in process of that. But I have the same way 11 years without seeing my family and parents in Mexico, because the system was very slow. Why am I not able to go back to see my mom or my brothers, because I have go be here until I have my residence. So now I am in that process.

GORDON: Ricardo Juarez, thanks for being with us. Appreciate at.

Mr. JUAREZ: All right, thank you.

GORDON: That was Ricardo Juarez. He serves as the coordinator for the group Mexicans Without Borders.

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