Originally published May 10
With last month’s barrage of anti-immigration-enforcement protests, Americans had their fill of the issue. The sea of Mexican and Latin American flags, the scuffles in schools and other public buildings over the raising of Mexican flags, all the “reconquista” and “stolen land” rhetoric and the sight of thousands of illegal immigrants demanding citizenship had done little to gain supporters.
So when organizers insisted on continuing the offensive with a nationwide boycott aimed at crippling the nation’s economy on May 1, it was a political disaster waiting to happen. Immigrants (legal or otherwise) were urged to boycott work, school and commerce and go out and demonstrate instead.
This time around, organizers had obviously spoken to participants about the Mexican flags, because American flags were now the order of the day. Never mind that organizers could be seen in television footage quietly replacing Mexican flags with American ones. All of a sudden we were to believe that patriotism was back in style. Needless to say, the subterfuge did not succeed.
As for the boycott itself, the much-ballyhooed “Day Without Immigrants” came and went, and the country is still standing.
Ironically, the boycott may have done more damage to industries and businesses that employ illegal immigrants than to others. Agriculture, construction, meat production, restaurants and other small businesses, many of them Hispanic-owned, took the brunt of the boycott.
The one thing the boycott did achieve was to expose the lie that the country cannot function without the labor of illegal immigrants. While some may have been inconvenienced by the experience, the economy hardly came to a grinding halt. It seems there are still some jobs Americans are willing to do.
Part of the problem was that not all Hispanic groups were united in favor of the boycott. Several departed from the pack early on, showing up on TV talk shows to condemn the boycotts. Some, such as “You Don’t Speak for Me,” an organization comprised of American Hispanics, wanted to dissociate themselves from the stigma of illegal behavior. Others saw the boycott as a bad political move and rightly predicted that it would engender further hostility to their cause.
May Day a Disquieting Choice
Holding the boycott on May Day, an international workers holiday with communist connotations, didn’t help. While much of Latin America celebrates May Day, most Americans aren’t particularly fond of anything associated with communism. But despite its failure in practice and the attendant body count, communism is still being touted by the American far left. And it was they, among other special-interest groups, who organized the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott and last month’s protests.
International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), a group that, in its own words, wants to “transform society, disarm the Pentagon and win back all that has been stolen from us—from Los Angeles to Baghdad, Mexico City to Manila, Port au Prince to Gaza and everywhere,” was one of the main organizers. This fact was overlooked by most of the mainstream media protest coverage, despite the wealth of signs carrying the group’s logo. Such coverage almost uniformly omitted the word “illegal” as well.
Impossible to ignore however, was the “Day Without Gringos” held in Mexico to coincide with the “Day Without Immigrants” in America. The traditional celebration of May Day gave way to a show of solidarity for the protesters in the United States and a boycott of American goods and companies.
Organized by Mexican labor unions and leftist groups (who might try applying their activism to reforming their own corrupt government), the “Day Without Gringos” was another in a long line of public relations gaffes surrounding the boycott. In fact, the Mexican government tried to stay out of the fray by not officially backing the boycott, but at least six state governors endorsed it.
The racist nature of the event was apparent for all to see, with the focus on “gringos,” or non-Hispanics. Presumably, the African Americans and other nonwhites opposed to illegal immigration are also being lumped in the gringo category. Marti Batres, Mexico City leader of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, was quite specific when he told demonstrators, “This is a great revolution of the bronze race, the brown race.” Were such language to be used by gringos, the world would be up in arms. But apparently racism’s acceptable when it’s spouted south of the border.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the California Senate voted in favor of a resolution supporting what they called the “Great American Boycott 2006.” Written by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), the resolution was a slap in the face to anyone who expects state government to support the rule of law. Several Democrats added insult to injury by walking off the job in solidarity with the boycott.
Senate Republicans voted unanimously against the resolution, and Governor Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, tried to discourage people from taking part in the boycott. Considering the unpopularity of the boycott, Democrats may yet come to regret their decision.
Rounding out the barrage of bad timing was the release of a Spanish-language version of the national anthem several days before the boycott. Titled “Nuestro Himno” (“Our Anthem”) and performed mostly by Latin pop stars, this was no “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Not only was the song in Spanish, it also contained altered passages scolding the “mean laws” supposedly inhibiting illegal immigration to the United States. It also expressed anti-war sentiment. It seems the aspects of American history upon which the “Star-Spangled Banner” was based were insufficiently pacifist for certain modern tastes.
The fact that the album was produced and marketed by British music producer Adam Kidron simply added fuel to the fire. Yet another foreigner meddling in their domestic affairs was the last thing Americans wanted to hear.
When pressed, President Bush offered a few token statements in favor of the national anthem being sung only in English, no doubt to pander to his largely disaffected base. The fact that the White House Web site is translated only into Spanish and that Bush himself has given speeches in Spanish would seem to belie such sentiment. Meanwhile, first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that the Spanish version was just fine and dandy.
What other country would tolerate such an affront? Just try exporting an English version of the Mexican national anthem to our neighbors to the south. Or would the French enjoy the “La Marseillaise” in English? Somehow, I doubt it.
Coming Backlash at the Polls?
With all the bad public relations associated with the May 1 boycott, one has to wonder what motivated its seemingly politically tone-deaf organizers. They may have simply taken a gamble that a show of toughness would intimidate the country into surrender. But the American people don’t respond well to blackmail, and polls continue to show a majority in favor of border enforcement, including building a barrier.
Some have speculated that organizers knew the boycott would create animosity and planned it for that very reason. That way, they could garner more recruits from the Hispanic population, legal or otherwise, using the “racist backlash” bogeyman.
Well, it turns out the boycott did create a backlash—but it was a political one. The very next day, the mayor and two town council members in Herndon, Va., became the first casualties. All three had approved a taxpayer-funded “day-labor center” (meaning a place to provide cheap illegal labor for unscrupulous employers) last year, and their constituents were less than thrilled about it. The voters finally had their revenge and ousted the responsible politicians. In their place, they elected only politicians who oppose the continuation of the day-labor center.
While this was the first such incident, a voter revolt could very well spread across the country and make its way onto the national stage in 2008. Meanwhile, representatives of the open-borders lobby are talking about registering more Hispanic voters, with no reference as to whether they will be legal or not. A battle at the ballot box could be brewing.
One thing is for sure: Tomorrow’s politicians will inherit a new political landscape. For with the protests last month and the May Day boycott, the issue of immigration enforcement is finally receiving the attention it deserves.
So bring on the boycotts!