- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Several local business owners and residents will participate in Monday’s immigration-themed boycott of school, shopping and work despite warnings against it by local Hispanic leaders, said boycott organizers in the area.

“We have [received calls] that workers by themselves are organizing, had families calling them saying they’d participate and immigrant business people who said they would close that day,” said Ricardo Juarez, president of Mexicans Without Borders, a Woodbridge, Va.-based group for workers. “The decision lies with the people, and we want to be with the people.”

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Catholic Church in the District, said yesterday that members of his predominantly black congregation also plan to join the boycott: “There is a growing solidarity between people of color in this country. … We join with this struggle and embrace it.”

Immigrants and illegal aliens have been encouraged to skip work and school Monday to show their effect on the economy and to influence the debate on illegal immigration.

National boycott organizers, many of them from Los Angeles, gathered yesterday in the District to discuss plans to move forward with the proposed one-day work stoppage. They say the boycott will encourage Congress to craft an immigration-reform bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal aliens.

“The May 1 boycott is on. Under no circumstances will it be canceled or compromised,” said Juan Jose Gutierrez, national coordinator for Latino Movement USA, a California-based group. “Many coalitions are fully on board and moving forward with [it].”

Local immigration leaders and Hispanic elected officials are not backing the effort, saying they fear it will alienate lawmakers and citizens and create a backlash against immigrants who miss work or school.

Instead, the leaders are urging participation in organized after-work events to boost voter registration and are encouraging immigrants to hold U.S. flags and gather outside their homes at 8:15 p.m. Monday for a candlelight vigil.

Mr. Gutierrez, however, said he supports any form of protest activity on Monday. He echoed D.C. leaders’ sentiments that the thousands of groups across the nation should not be expected to act monolithically and said all of them have one goal: citizenship for illegals.

Though some Americans associate May 1 with the May Day celebrations of communism and the socialist movement, organizers said they chose the date because it is a holiday in Latin America and much of the world, and it happens to fall in the middle of Congress’ legislative calendar.

Mr. Juarez said an informal poll of 2,000 immigrants conducted by his group in 20 cities in Maryland, Virginia and the District showed that 97 percent of them would risk losing their jobs to participate in the boycott.

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