Area residents observing national immigration boycott

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

If all goes as planned, it may not be business as usual in the United States on Monday, which is “the Great May 1 Boycott” or “A Day Without an Immigrant” Day.

Nationwide, immigrant supporters hope to disrupt the day to illustrate, like in the 2004 movie, “A Day Without a Mexican,” that immigrants are a vital part of the economy. The movement comes as lawmakers prepare to reconvene in Washington and decide what to do about the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

In eastern New Mexico, marches supporting immigration reform are scheduled in Clovis and Portales, but it’s not clear how many immigrants may be planning to participate in a boycott.

Immigration rights supporters are scheduled to march from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday in downtown Clovis. City commissioners granted residents permission to hold a parade, starting on Main Street at 14th Street to Grand Avenue, along Grand to Mitchell Street, then up Mitchell to 14th.

In Roosevelt County, organizers will not begin a planned march around the Roosevelt County Courthouse until 4 p.m. on Monday so as not to disrupt people’s work and school days.

Pilar Moreno of Portales said she plans to report to her job at La Casa de Buena Salud on Monday, but said she will take care of her shopping needs on Sunday to prove a point.

“I’m not going to buy anything on Monday to help support my people,” said Moreno, who came to the United States from Mexico at age 5 and became a U.S. citizen in 2001. “I know where they are coming from because I’ve been there. There has to be other ways to deal with these immigrants (than make them criminals and send them back to Mexico),” she said.

Moreno said she has a dilemma about participating in a boycott on Monday. As the outreach coordinator at La Casa, she said people are scheduled to come see her for help with Medicaid. “My thing is that they should not tell people to don’t go to work or school. I support what they are doing, but they should do it afterwards,” she said.

If any local businesses were to be affected by the Day Without an Immigrant, Moreno said it would probably be the dairy operators and farmers who would feel it.

Michelle Heavyside, president of United Dairy Women and a partner in Greenfield Park Dairy near Portales, agreed. The impact would be “huge,” Heavyside said, adding that a work boycott would “severely hurt the dairies because of the health issues” of the animals.

“It’s not like construction,” she said. “We are working with live animals that must be milked at specific times. If people don’t show up, they put the cow’s health at risk.”
She said Saturday night that she had not heard whether any of her employees, who have worked for her 12 to 15 years, planned to participate.

At Wal-Mart Supercenter in Portales, manager Jay Cordray said he does not think the boycott on Monday will have a local impact. “We’ve talked about it with our associates, and with the feedback we’ve gotten from our customers, we haven’t heard much about anything going on,” Cordray said.

As far as workers taking part in the boycott and not showing up to work that day, however, Cordray said Wal-Mart is accommodating those who have requested to be off just like he said Wal-Mart accommodates employees who request off to attend religious observances or other special events.

“We have had a few associates request to be off on Monday (because of the Day Without an Immigrant Day),” Cordray said. “We accommodate any schedule change with a supervisor’s approval, and they will work another day instead of that day.”

Geni Flores, faculty advisor for the Association to Help Our Race Advance at Eastern New Mexico University, said about 25 association students are expected to participate in the march. As far as the boycott from work and school that day, though, Flores said, “We want people to be free to make their own decision. But I feel that if people do not show up that day, that would send a message that immigrants are real essential to the workforce as well as to our economic system.”

There has been some opposition to the nationwide rallies and walkouts that have been taking place since March in support of undocumented workers. In response to this, Flores said, “Anytime anyone takes political action, there is going to be a backlash. But if people were afraid to take action, then we wouldn’t have civil rights today.”

“I would say that if one understood the serious economic system in Mexico and Third World countries and people’s complete inabilities to advance and make their ways out of poverty, if they lived in those particular circumstances, then they would take risks to come here too,” Flores said.

“When it comes to breaking the law, most people would rather see to it that their family has food to eat rather than watching their children starve,” she added. “I just think people need to understand that poverty exists and why people come here and why they work as hard as they do when they get here. Immigrants pay taxes on everything. They fill up their cars and they shop at Wal-Mart. They are consumers in our economy every hour of every day.”