Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/fri/31212nCA-Hispanicboycott.html
California Hispanic groups organizing boycott today
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 12, 2003
By Deborah Kong
SAN FRANCISCO - Advocates are asking Hispanics throughout
California to flex their economic muscle today by refusing to go to work, school
The planned statewide boycott, organized by two Southern California advocacy
groups, is a response to last week's repeal of a law that would have allowed
undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses.
"Latino and immigrant communities don't have to roll over," said Edward
Headington, a spokesman for the Mexican American Political Association, one of
the organizers of the boycott. "It's saying that there is strength in numbers."
At 11.9 million, Hispanics make up about a third of the state's population.
California, home to the nation's largest Hispanic community, has been the scene
of a series of divisive battles over immigration.
Headington said he did not know how many would participate in today's boycotts,
but acknowledged its effects would be felt individually, business by business.
"It's not like shutting down the 101" freeway, he said.
Organizers have distributed at least 350,000 fliers during the past month urging
people to join the boycott, Headington said. Spanish-language television
stations have aired several stories on it.
Victor Jimenez, the manager of a Redwood City construction equipment rental
company, plans to stay home from work today, and he has asked the company's 150
other employees to join him.
"I told them not to buy anything, not to go to the movies, not to put gas, not
to deposit money in the bank," said Jimenez, who is Mexican-American.
"The state of California is so powerful, it's strong, but the Hispanic
community, it's supporting that because we're buying, we're working."
But some have expressed reservations about the boycott.
Xavier Reyes, communications and education director at the Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said his group supports the idea of the boycott
but is worried about workers.
"Our concern is the folks that are going to leave their jobs and may not be able
to come back to their jobs. There's basically no safety net for those people,"
"If we had a population that was totally homogeneous, there might be some
significant showing," Reyes said. But "we're not one homogeneous group that's
marching in the same direction every time."
Still, the boycott may "underscore the important contributions of Latino
immigrants to the well-being of the state," said Hector Villagra, regional
counsel of the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational
Fund, a national advocacy group that is among others that have pledged their
"There's probably no better way to do that, to show that significance, than
through their absence that day," Villagra said.
The boycott, scheduled for the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's
patron saint, also will remind legislators that the driver's license issue has
not been forgotten, Headington said.
It's a matter of "respect and dignity for people who are hardworking and
responsible and who need a license to drive to work, to drive their kids to
school and to go shopping," he said.
The driver's license law was passed by the Legislature in September and signed
by then-Gov. Gray Davis, fueling criticism he was pandering to Hispanic voters.
Fulfilling a major campaign promise, Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger repealed the
law last week. He has said he wants a "whole new package" that includes more
safeguards and background checks on applicants. But many Republicans vowed they
will oppose any bill that allows residents living illegally in California to get
Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, the previous bill's author, said he
supports today's boycotts.
The economic strike also is intended to denounce a bill being considered by
Congress that would allow state and local law enforcement officers to arrest
suspected illegal immigrants, Headington said. It's also in response to an
effort to resurrect a state constitutional amendment similar to Proposition 187,
the 1994 initiative that sought to deny public education, health care and social
services to illegal immigrants.
Proposition 187 was challenged in court and never took effect, but its backers
are trying to place an initiative to deny illegal immigrants public benefits and
prevent them from getting driver's licenses on the November ballot.