A Day Without Immigrants: Millions Expected to Boycott Work, Not Consume to Protest Anti-Immigrant Bill
Monday, May 1st, 2006
Millions of immigrant workers are expected to boycott work and school today in support of nationwide May Day protests against anti-immigrant legislation being considered in Washington. Dubbed "A Day Without Immigrants" protests are planned in over 70 cities. Immigrant rights groups are calling on immigrant workers to not show up for work and to not buy anything all day. Today immigrants" rights groups have called for a nationwide "day without immigrants." In more than 60 cities around the country, hundreds of events are planned to demonstrate the importance of immigrant labor to the economy of the United States.
Walk-outs, boycotts, rallies, teach-ins, marches, and business closings are planned throughout the day. An international protest will takeplace at the San Diego, Tijuana border. In Chicago, massive rallies are planned, one of which will be held in Haymarket Square, where the original Mayday protests occurred in 1886.
In many cities, immigrants and their supporters will link hands at exactly 12:16pm a time meant to symbolize the December 16th passage of the draconian House Immigration Bill HR4437.
Many businesses are also planning to close their doors in a show of solidarity with immigrant laborers. In Texas, the chain Malone's Cost-Plus, which owns over 800 restaurants and nine Dallas supermarkets will close. Here in New York, many stores and businesses have also decided to close their doors today so that their workers can take part in the marches and rallies planned throughout the city.
We speak with four guests about today's planned activities:
Francia Lopera, General Manger of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Park Slope Brooklyn. She is originally from Colombia.
Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization. He is originally from Pakistan.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.
Jorge Mujica, one of the lead organizers for the March 10 protest in Chicago that drew up to 300,000 people. He is a former journalist and union organizer who has worked for La Raza, Univision, and Telemundo, and has been involved in union organizing in both the US and in Mexico.
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AMY GOODMAN: Two guests are joining us today to talk about events. Francia Lopera is General Manager of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is originally from Colombia and made her way to the United States through Mexico. And Mohammad Razvi is with us, a former business owner and the Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization, originally from Pakistan. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
FRANCIA LOPERA: Thank you for inviting us.
AMY GOODMAN: Francia, what are you doing today?
FRANCIA LOPERA: We are protesting in favor of letting immigrants to work. And we come to work. We come to succeed. We don't come to take anything from Americans. We are Americans, too. And we come to work. That's what we want.
AMY GOODMAN: When did you come to this country?
FRANCIA LOPERA: I came in 1989. I came through El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez. It was a long trip, ten days from Colombia.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you come?
FRANCIA LOPERA: Because in my country I didn't find -- you know, the money that you make wasn’t enough to pay the rent or to survive. If you had money to pay the rent, you didn't have money to pay bills or to buy clothes. So, I had the opportunity to come, and I did it. And I have been here 16 years, and I like it. I love it. And I’m an American citizen now.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your fellow workers going to be doing today? Talk about the stores.
FRANCIA LOPERA: We are going to close today, thanks to Marty Medina, the owner. He said he’s going to support the immigrant rights and the march. So we’re going to gather together at the restaurant, and we’re going to walk to Manhattan to protest.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing white.
FRANCIA LOPERA: Yes. It’s a demonstration to support the march.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Razvi, can you talk about your plans today?
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Well, today, what’s happening in the South Asian community in Brooklyn, about over a hundred stores are going to shut their gates down in solidarity with the immigrants rights movement, because we are really concerned with things that are happening against immigrants always. And we were one of the individuals who felt right after 9/11 the impact that it can have, such bills as this draconian bill that just passed.
AMY GOODMAN: You are also wearing white, and you’re wearing a number of pins. Can you describe each of the pins that you’re wearing?
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Absolutely. First of all, this pin, “I love immigrant New York,” is for all the immigrants that are here. We have to realize we are all immigrants here, unless you are a Red Indian, and even they came from somewhere seeking prosperity here. The pin that I wear here of 9/11, that’s the date things changed for me in my life, where I was working with the Fire Department and other city officials, trying to get the people together. This pin that I wear here is from the F.B.I., where I had to release many individuals working hand-in-hand to get them to be released from the federal agents, I.N.S. agents.
AMY GOODMAN: The Pakistani community is perhaps the hardest hit after 9/11.
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Pakistani community was devastated. After 9/11, the things that occurred, this is what I wanted to show you. These are individual cases that had occurred of discrimination.
AMY GOODMAN: For our radio listeners, Mohammad Razvi has a large loose-leaf binder of hundreds of pages in front of him.
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: And these are the things that I’m worried about, because certain laws that are passed, like the PATRIOT Act, which says it’s patriotic. It has nothing to do with patriotism. This law, they label it as border security. It has nothing really to do with border security. And that’s the main thing. It’s just criminalizing individuals, and we don't want to see another community to be devastated as our community has been. That’s why we stand together. And it’s throughout all the South Asian communities -- the Indians, the Bangladesh, all of them are coming together.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization; Francia Lopera from Brooklyn, originally from Colombia, made her way to the United States through Mexico. We’ll be back with them, and we’ll go to Chicago and Los Angeles in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about this day without immigrants, we are joined in the studio by Mohammad Razvi, who is a business leader in Brooklyn, originally from Pakistan. We are also joined by Francia Lopera, General Manager of Rachel's Taqueria and La Taqueria in Brooklyn. Today at 12:16 Eastern Standard Time around the country, people will stand outside arm-in-arm to mark the time that the House bill 4437 was passed in December. Francia, can you talk about the impact of the original marches and rallies on you. Were you a part of the original ones that happened over these last weeks?
FRANCIA LOPERA: I wasn’t part of that, because, to tell you the truth, I didn't think that it was that big thing. After I saw a show on TV in last week, and I saw that it’s 500 pages of a new law that they want to put, and they want to criminalize all the immigrants, so I wake up and I see that this is going to affect everybody. And, you know, it’s sad that sometimes you only think of yourself, and when it doesn't touch you, you don't care, you are not concerned. But now, I’m very concerned.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned, as a U.S. citizen, for yourself? I mean, you are completely legally here.
FRANCIA LOPERA: Yes, but I have family. I have family that is still -- that don't have papers, and I have to stick for them. And I have friends and, you know, the people that is around us, we are like12 million people here that don't have papers.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mohammad Razvi, the business community, whether workers or business owners, especially Pakistani, South Asian, Arab American Muslim men very hard hit, are people afraid to take action right now?
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: I think now what’s happening is people are not afraid, because what devastation had to be done, it already occurred in our communities. But we have seen this devastation, and that's why we’re coming out even more to talk about it, to let people know, be careful, we have to get onto this. That’s why we were in the initial steering committee for the April 10th event, where 300,000 people joined us. That’s why we're coming out. We’re making sure that this does not happen to these other communities.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you have much resistance from the business community to close today?
MOHAMMAD RAZVI: Not at all. Not at all. They were like, “We are more than happy to.” And some of them, I told them we only -- you know, close for the whole day, it’s up to you, but close for an hour. They said, “We’re going to close for the whole day.” Some say, “We’re going to close for an hour.” And that’s what it is, and it’s going to start at exactly at 12:16 to mark this day.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Mohammad Razvi, for joining us; Francia Lopera, for joining us. We’re now going to Los Angeles, where we’re joined on the line by Angelica Salas. She is Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
ANGELICA SALAS: It’s a pleasure to be with you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about the plans for today in Los Angeles?
ANGELICA SALAS: Today is going to be an incredible day in Los Angeles. Starting at 9:00, we’re going to start marching throughout L.A. We’re expecting millions of people to take to the streets today to demand their full rights, to demand a stop to HR 4437. We’re going to have a midday rally, and then we’re going to end the day with a rally, where we’re going to shut down one of largest streets in the entire country, Wilshire Boulevard.
And we’re going to be really highlighting immigrant workers. Today is International Workers Day. We really want to say that immigrant workers are essential to this country, that it is impossible for us to continue to pass these horrendous pieces of legislation. And so, we’re also saying, in the same way that we’re against HR 4437, immigrants need legalization. They need citizenship, and they need to be reunited with their families. It will be an incredible day in L.A., and we’re really excited to show the entire country how important we are to this nation.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in Chicago by Jorge Mujica, who was one of the lead organizers for the March 10th protest that drew well up to 300,000 people, former journalist and union organizer who has worked for La Raza, Univision, Telemundo. We had him in studio in Chicago when I was there last week. Today, Jorge, talk about the plans.
JORGE MUJICA: Hi, good morning, everybody. This is amazing! This is 7:29 in the morning here in Chicago, and we already have people gathering at Union Park for a march that is being called by – 10:00 a.m. rally and 12:00 noon, the demonstration. So, five hours earlier, people are already showing up here.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about where you are, Jorge?
JORGE MUJICA: We are west of downtown Chicago, and we are going to cross the whole downtown to reach Grant Park, which is by the lake. So to speak, we are going to divide the city, cut it off in two halves, north and south. And we also have [inaudible] marches, around ten [inaudible] marches that are coming from all points of the city, you know, the Westside, Southside, Eastside. We are going to have hundreds of thousands of people here demonstrating today, as there was in Los Angeles. This is a working issue for us today. This is not only about immigration. This is a demonstration of immigrants as workers, and we are marching with fellow workers, American citizens, blacks, whites, Asians, everybody. This is a working day.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jorge Mujica, I want to thank you for joining us from Chicago; and Angelica Salas, thank you for being with us from Los Angeles. We will certainly cover these protests today in your cities and around the country.