Walk a mile in an immigrant's shoes; if you did, you'd understand boycott
The Arizona Republic
May. 13, 2005


I know all the arguments for why boycotts don't work and why a protest boycott by immigrants might even be counterproductive:

 By not showing up to work, they will cede at least some of the moral high ground, the argument that all they want to do is come here and work.

 They only hurt the industries that offer them employment. They're jeopardizing their own jobs. They can't afford to give up even one day's pay.

 Boycotts never work. They need cohesion and widespread economic and political clout, which the undocumented migrants don't have.

But you don't have to be pro-illegal immigration to understand exactly why so many young men and women staged a one-day protest Tuesday. And you can sympathize with them. For a moment, put yourself in their shoes. Spend a day in their sweaty work boots.

You're a Mexican. You build roofs or work as a handyman during the day, wash dishes or pour drinks at night. You're a waitress, a sad-looking girl filling glasses with Perrier water, watching all the people eat their steaks, onion rings and shrimp. People call you illegal. People say they don't want you here. But they've been hiring you for years and employing your people for decades, no questions asked.

People say you are taking jobs from Americans. But everyone who does the work you do looks like you. No one else is applying for your job to trim palm trees, pour concrete, clean hotel toilets or mop the floor of the restaurants. They say you're causing trouble. But they trust you in their homes, playing with their children, cooking and serving your food. They even pick you up and drive you to their homes to work in their back yards - without even knowing your name.

And now, all of a sudden, you are the enemy. A potential terrorist. A criminal. An alien. A threat. They pass laws saying you can't vote, even though you haven't even thought about it. You are the enemy, a threat to the culture.

You think to yourself: What did you do to deserve this, being detested and scapegoated? What threat do you pose?

You're here only to better yourself and provide for your family. If you had it your way, you'd still be back home. But that's not an option. So you're here. And now, all of a sudden, you're targeted. You're the bad guy.

How would you feel? Angry enough to protest? Shout? If we lived their lives, we'd probably do the same thing. At least for one day.