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INT’L LABOUR DAY: Mexico Backs ‘Day Without Immigrants’

Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY, Apr 28 2006 (IPS) - In video rental stores in Mexico, demand has been high these days for “A Day Without a Mexican”, a movie that helped inspire the nationwide demonstrations and a boycott to be held May 1, International Labour Day, by immigrant groups in the United States.

All of the video clubs contacted by IPS said that none of their copies of the 2004 film, which depicts the chaos that would ensue if California woke up one day without Mexicans (or “Latinos” in general) were presently available.

“People have been asking for the film a lot lately; I guess it’s a hot issue today,” said one of the clerks at a local Blockbuster store.

In Mexico, trade unions, groups of activists and lawmakers offered their total backing for the demonstrations that migrants in the United States will hold on Monday to demand amnesty for undocumented immigrants and to protest a strict immigration reform bill passed by the lower house of Congress.

Immigrant rights groups are also organising a national boycott, urging immigrants in the United States to stay home from work and school, and not to buy or sell anything on Monday. The idea is for immigrants to make their economic clout felt.

In addition, organisations in Mexico have called on people to boycott U.S. products and businesses.


“It will be a historic day for the United States, because we immigrants will make our presence felt,” Raúl Murillo, with the Mexican-Latin American Brotherhood, which has offices in a number of U.S. cities as well as the Mexican capital, told IPS.

He added that “a wave of solidarity” will also come from Mexico.

Mexico’s unions, which as usual will hold massive marches in the capital on May 1, said their demonstrations will be dedicated to solidarity with migrants in the United States, and to protesting meddling by the Mexican government in the internal affairs of trade unions.

Although the administration of Vicente Fox said it is in no way participating in the giant rallies planned by Latino organisations in the United States, Mexican officials have closely followed the preparations for May 1 through meetings with activists from immigrant rights groups.

In addition, Mexican officials have held conversations in the past few days with U.S. legislators and officials, to push for comprehensive immigration reform, which the Fox administration has been demanding since 2001.

A large majority of the estimated 12 million undocumented migrants in the United States are from Mexico.

Mexicans also comprise the largest group of people of Latin American origin or descent, who number around 40 million in the United States, out of a total population of 295 million.

In “A Day Without a Mexican”, by Mexican director Sergio Arau, the entire Latino population of the state of California – where immigrants make up one-third of the labour force and one-quarter of the local residents – suddenly vanishes one day, creating confusion and disarray.

The comedy ends with images of U.S. border agents welcoming and hugging Mexican migrants along the border, instead of detaining and deporting them.

“A Day Without Latinos” was the theme adopted by many activists for the May 1 protests in the United States.

In March, members of the U.S. Senate reached a compromise agreement that would create a guest worker programme for 400,000 migrant labourers every year, and provide a possible path for citizenship for 10 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country. By contrast with the bill that made it through the House of Representatives in December, the Senate bill would not criminalise illegal migration.

However, the Senate compromise has not achieved consensus support.

The initial congressional debates in the United States took place in the midst of unprecedented demonstrations by millions of immigrants and activists in a number of U.S. cities.

The U.S. administration of George W. Bush, which claims to support “humanitarian” immigration reform, has sent out contradictory signals.

In a nationwide crackdown on the hiring of illegal immigrants that started on Apr. 19, close to 1,200 undocumented workers have been arrested in several cities, along with several employers.

“Employers and workers alike should be on notice that the status quo has changed,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “These enforcement actions demonstrate that this department has no patience for employers who tolerate or perpetuate a shadow economy.”

Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers declared that “Our nation’s communities cannot be a wild frontier where illegal aliens and unscrupulous employers subvert our nation’s laws.”

Immigrant rights groups protested the raids and reported that many workers who took part in the March demonstrations suffered some kind of reprisal from their employers, or from immigration authorities.

Divisions have arisen among the organisers of the May 1 rallies. Some argue that it is better not to hold a boycott, because it could be counterproductive, while others stand by the boycott.

Murillo, with the Mexican-Latin American Brotherhood, said the diversity of views would not reduce the impact of the protests, and that “the great strength of immigrants will be demonstrated on May 1.”

 
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