In Mexico, an Urge to Support Immigrants in U.S.

Activists in Mexico have called for a boycott of all U.S. businesses on Monday in support of the "Day Without Immigrants" protests planned by activists in the United States. Immigrants across the United States are being urged to skip work, avoid spending money, and march in the streets to prove their importance to the U.S. economy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris. Across the country today hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters spent the day at marches and rallies. Organizers are calling it A Day Without Immigrants. There were also marches south of the border. May 1st is a national holiday in Mexico. And this year, many union members expressed support for the protests in the U.S. and for a boycott of American companies and products.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATORS)

LOURDES GARCIA: Security was tight around the U.S. Embassy as thousands of demonstrators following a marching band walked down Mexico City's main street, Reforma. Dozens of riot police formed a phalanx to protect the building though the procession was peaceful. Most of the people on the streets today were members of the powerful and fractious unions holding their annual May Day march. But they are lending their support to the Mexican campaign, which is being called A Day Without Gringos. Some were carrying signs that read migrants are honest workers, not terrorists, and full rights for the migrants now.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATORS CHANTING)

GARCIA: There were also migrant activists shouting you are not alone. They said that the events today are not only a message to the United States, but also to the Mexican authorities. Justice For Migrants organizer Hugo Badillo(ph), who has a brother in the U.S., says that the migrant issue needs to be addressed on both sides of the border.

HUGO BADILLO: (Through Translator) It is precisely here in Mexico where we should raise our voice, because here is where the migrants come from. We are not asking for the U.S. to resolve our problems. This is an act of solidarity with what's happening in the U.S., but it's also a call to the Mexican government to redefine its migratory policies.

GARCIA: The main focus of the day's events was a boycott of American companies. Today is a national holiday in Mexico and people were asked to stay home and not shop at places like Starbucks and Wal-Mart. The governors of several states have endorsed the plan even though the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, has distanced himself from the event.

American businesses employ 40 percent of the Mexican workforce. And American business groups here say that the boycott, if it works, could be counter productive. And some of the rhetoric at the rally was unlikely to please some in the U.S. Gloria Ramirez Vargas is a local politician from Baja, California who spoke to the crowd today.

GLORIA RAMIREZ VARGAS: (Through Translator) Many Mexicans are nourishing the ground in the U.S., but those lands were once ours. Those same lands, which now with intelligence, with love and with a lot of work, we are re-conquering again for our Mexico.

GARCIA: But despite the seemingly widespread support for the boycott, inside a huge complex, which has a Sam's Club and a Wal-Mart Superstore, business this morning was brisk.

Juan Gonzales was in the food section and when asked about the boycott, he said that he supported it in principal, but...

JUAN GONZALES: (Through Translator) Today I had time to shop, so I came over here. This is where I always shop.

GARCIA: It's unclear what the overall effect will be, however. There are other events across Mexico. Protestors in Reynosa briefly shut down the border bridge that links it to Mcallen, Texas. Back at the Mexico City rally, though, a sidewalk vendor said thirsty marchers were drinking as much Coca Cola as usual. Lourdes Garcia Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.

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