Illegal immigrants and their allies begin boycott to flex economic muscle |

Illegal immigrants and their allies begin boycott to flex economic muscle

HOMESTEAD, Fla. ” Illegal immigrants and their allies gathered Monday for marches, prayers and demonstrations on a planned national day of economic protest, boycotting work, school and shopping to show their importance to the country.

Several thousand people marched in the rural city of Homestead, home to one Florida’s largest Mexican immigrant populations and many major growers of fruits, vegetables and nursery plants.

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 planned to attend protests during lunch breaks or after work. Church services, candlelight vigils and picnics also were planned.

Grassroots organizers are protesting stricter immigration laws that are being debated in Congress, and they hope Monday’s events will raise awareness about immigrants’ economic power.

In Carmel, Ind., Jeff Salsbery said about 25 Hispanic workers skipped work at Monday at his landscaping company.

“I’m not very happy this morning,” Salsbery said. “We’re basically shut down in our busiest month of the year. It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars today.”

Some big businesses were shutting down operations: Eight 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 pork plants.

But it was business as usual 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.”

Thanks to the success of previous rallies plus media attention, planning for Monday’s events, collectively called Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes ” A Day Without Immigrants ” is widespread, though fragmented.

Several thousand protesters marched in Orlando, locking arms and waving banners with messages such as “We die in the desert for beans.”

Francisco Lizamo, 33, of El Salvador, got the day off, along with the 46 other employees at the construction company where he works.

“I haven’t been able to see my mom in 10 years,” he said through a translator. “I’m worried that if I left I wouldn’t be able to get back.”

Delazar Hernandez, said he filed to become a legal U.S. resident seven years ago and it still waiting. On Monday, the construction worker draped an American flag around his shoulders while attending an event in Houston.

“At my company we build hospitals, schools and other buildings and it’s all been because of illegal workers,” said Hernandez, who is originally from Mexico. “They don’t seem to recognize that.”

Opponents of illegal immigration spent the weekend building a fence to symbolize their support of a secure border. About 200 volunteers organized by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California worked on a 6-foot barbed-wire fence along a quarter-mile stretch of rugged terrain near the U.S.-Mexico border about 50 miles east of San Diego.

At a Phoenix Home Depot store targeted by immigrants rights activists, several people also gathered to voice their support for tough immigration laws.

Republican National Committeeman Randy Pullen, a key supporter of an Arizona law passed in 2004 to limit public services for illegal immigrants, believed the demonstrations would backfire.

“I think it galvanizes average Americans into believing that there’s a real problem that needs to be solved,” he said. “The other thing that I think is important to note is these demonstrators here today do not speak for law-abiding Latino American citizens.”

Roberto Aguilar, an Atlanta construction worker originally from Mexico City, says he was fired after he marched at a demonstration last month. The 25-year-old, though, felt it was important to return Monday.

“If we don’t come out, they’re going to paint us as criminals,” Aguilar said. “We’ve only come here to earn money with the sweat of our brow.”

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