IMMIGRANTS IN U.S. RALLY, BOYCOTT
- IMMIGRANTS IN U.S. RALLY, BOYCOTT
Demonstrators Making Statements with Feet, Voices, Wallets
Demonstrators Making Statements With Feet, Voices, Wallets
Slideshow: Immigration Rallies Across The U.S.
(CBS) 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. CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports the
impact was felt on Los Angeles' famed 7th Street Market as 85
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
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.
CBS News' Jennifer Miller reports from Chicago one of the most
ethnically diverse cities in the United States, with Mexicans making
up its largest foreign-born population that immigrants of all
ethnicities gathered together in a show of unity. They marched, many
holding hands, three miles through the heart of the city.
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.
CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reported from Dodge City, Kan.,
where 15,000 Hispanic immigrants make up half the area's population.
Thousands marched down Main Street, where usually busy Hispanic-owned
shops were closed.
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."
Pitts reports that unlike last month's wave of demonstrations,
politicians didn't simply take notice, many also showed up Monday.
"The problem is we've been engaging in hypocrisy in this country,"
Sen. Barak Obama, D-Ill., told Pitts. "We don't mind these folks
mowing our lawns, looking after our children or serving us at
restaurants, as long as they don't actually ask for any rights in
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'
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 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
"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, Alabama, company that supplies
Hispanic laborers to companies around the southeastern U.S., 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."
Illegal immigrants and their allies across America marched, prayed and
demonstrated during a day of economic protest Monday, boycotting work,
school and shopping to show their importance to the country.
In one of the early demonstrations, about 1,200 people marched in the
rural Homestead, home to one Florida's largest Mexican immigrant
populations and many major growers of fruits, vegetables and nursery
Jose Cruz, 23, from El Salvador, said he took off the day from his
construction job to attend the rally.
"If I lose my job, it's worth it," said Cruz, who has a temporary work
permit that is granted to many Central Americans. "It's worth losing
several jobs to get my papers."
Others were working Monday but buying nothing as part of the economic
boycott around the country. Some attended protests during lunch breaks
or after work. Church services, candlelight vigils, picnics and human
chains also were planned.
In each of New York City's five boroughs, thousands of workers took
work breaks to form human chains throughout the five boroughs, linking
arms with shoppers, restaurant-goers and other supporters for about 20
"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.
In Denver, El Centro Humanitario, a nonprofit set up to help day
laborers, was closed Monday because its managers were helping organize
a rally downtown expected to attract tens of thousands of people.
But there was little change at Labor Finders, a temporary office with
several offices in the Denver area, spokesman Tim Kaffer said.
"The people who come in here really can't afford to take a day off,"
he said. "Their daily pay just takes care of their hotel and food."
In New Orleans, several thousand demonstrators attended a rally,
carrying signs that read `"Proud to rebuild" and "We come to work."
Derrick Trundle, 29, of Metairie, La. said he sends money to his
mother in Honduras every month. "We don't come here to do anything
bad," Trundle said. "Just support our family because our country is so
Thanks to the success of previous rallies, planning for Monday's
events, collectively called Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes, or A Day Without
Immigrants, is widespread, though fragmented. Rallies were planned in
at least 60 U.S. cities today, CBS News national correspondent Byron
Some big businesses were shutting down operations: Six of 14 Perdue
Farms plants will close; Gallo Wines in Sonoma, Calif., was giving its
150 employees the day off; Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat
producer, planned to shut five of its nine beef plants and four of six
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 and advised protesters against waving flags of their native
"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. It could be the largest immigrant rally ever in
Chicago, Pitts reports. 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.
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