- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Local chambers of commerce, economists and elected officials said the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott seemed to have little effect on businesses, but pro-immigration leaders still called the event a success.

Hundreds of thousands of immigration supporters skipped work and school, forcing closures at factories, shops and construction sites Monday in an effort to influence U.S. lawmakers and flex their economic strength.

But sporadic participation in the D.C. area was difficult to compare to the massive turnout in border states such as Texas and California.

“I think a one-day stoppage is pretty easily absorbed,” Stephen Fuller, a regional economist and professor of public policy at George Mason University, said yesterday. “Monday is the slowest day for retailing in general, so it probably did even less damage.”

At least 60 immigrant-owned businesses closed in the District, as did several in Maryland and Virginia.

“I have not heard from any of our members who have had a disruption in their work force because of any walkout that may have occurred” Monday, said Nancy-jo Manney, executive director of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. “I did speak to members late last week who mentioned that it might be a factor, but no one has said that it actually was.”

Virginia Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Fairfax Republican and a leading proponent of legislation to crack down on illegal aliens, also said he did not see any business closures.

“I heard about it on the news all day, [but] all the day laborers were outside the local 7-Eleven. I was kind of hoping they would have a real boycott, get used to it and boycott every day,” he said.

While some businesses, such as Brick Oven Pizza in Baltimore, reported no worker absences, several construction companies reported losing as much as 50 percent of their crews.

Gerald Hanweck, a professor of finance at GMU, said a survey of local business would be the only way to gauge the effect because a one-day boycott won’t cause a sales plunge to show up on retailers’ books.

Still, national and local leaders called the event a success — though they used different barometers to make the assessment.

Boycott organizer Raul Murillo, director of the California-based National Mexican Brotherhood, said the thousands who skipped work and closed their business made the action a success.

“The message was sent directly to Congress and the White House that immigrants are not just strong for jobs, but that immigrants are economically strong as well,” Mr. Murillo said yesterday.

Local leaders who urged immigrants to attend rallies after work and school in lieu of boycotting said they were surprised by the high attendance at events urging voter registration and petition signing.

Immigrant advocacy group CASA of Maryland, which organized three events, said about 3,000 rallied in the District, about 4,500 in Hyattsville, about 300 in Gaithersburg and about 1,000 in Baltimore.

But voter registration appeared minimal, with only 20 persons registering in Baltimore.

Virginia Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, said the rallies are in vain.

“I don’t understand the protest unless the protest is [for] all illegal aliens who want amnesty, and if that’s the case, they can’t vote, so why would a senator or a congressman care?”

Rally counterprotester Tyler Froatz, a member of the Herndon Minutemen, an illegal-entry watchdog group, agreed.

“These protests are great for us and all other legal Americans because polls show that these protests only serve to alienate the community,” said Mr. Froatz, 22.

The International May 1 Coalition announced Monday that it will begin planning a May 19 “March on Washington,” which will bring immigrant advocacy groups from across the nation together at the White House Ellipse.

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