Worker boycotts provoke backlash by Mitch E. Perry

05/05/06

An unprecedented series of marches, demonstrations and work boycotts on behalf of illegal immigrants in the past month has generated headlines across the nation and put a spotlight on legislation in Congress. But it may also be fueling a backlash against the immigrant-rights movement.

A Zogby America survey taken after the April 10th demonstrations and released this week finds that 61 percent of Americans say that the protests make them less likely to be sympathetic toward illegal immigrants.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports that on Tuesday, following a national work boycott and demonstrations, phone calls tripled to Florida Senator . Mel Martinez’s office in Washington, D.C., and doubled at Senator Bill Nelson’s office, with most constituents urging passage of a bill that would create a massive fence along the Mexican border.

The Herald Tribune also reports Congresswoman Katherine Harris’ district office has seen a 200 percent increase in calls this week, the vast majority running against the activists.

Blanca Gonzalez is with Immigrants United For Freedom, the group that helped organize rallies for immigrants last Monday and last month. She says she’s not surprised at the backlash, but believes some of it comes from fear and a lack of understanding about those who were in the streets (roll tape# 1o.q.�putting down an American flag�)

The Senate has been considering legislation that would offer some work provisions and expand opportunities for citizenship for illegal immigrants. If the Senate can pass a bill, negotiations would begin with the House of Representatives to reach a compromise on immigration legislation that President Bush could sign into law.

The use of Mexican and other Latin American nation flags , especially in the initial protests, seemed to become a flash point for some U.S. citizens, and in some other protests, noted leaders, tried to discourage such displays at more recent rallies.

Another flashpoint was last week, when a British music producer released a Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner, the U.S. National Anthem. That angered John Hendrix from the Florida Minuteman Project (roll tape#2 o.q. “national language�)

There have be no polls released in the few days since the May 1st Boycott rallies that were held across the country….In Tampa, approximately 7,000 gathered at Dale Mabry Highway and Columbus Drive, a number that was considered ‘disappointing’, even though it was roughly twice the number who attended a similar rally on April 10th.

That’s because of the expectations built up in those 3 weeks in between…But there also was some division within the immigrant rights community, with some groups backing away from any protest.

As WMNF reported last week, there were reports – unconfirmed – that there had been some roundups by Immigration and Customs Enforcement against illegals, possibility contributing to a chilling of protest.

John Hendrix from the Florida Minuteman Project says that the reason that Americans are turning away from the growing movement among undocumented workers to have a voice in this country is because there is concern about how much they want to become a part of the fabric of the country (roll tape#3 o.q.�right to amnesty�)

Blanca Gonzalez from Immigrants United For Freedom. says part of the reason that the public might be turning against causes that she is fighting for is because of opinion makers stance……She referred to a column written this week by Tampa Tribune opinion writer Steve Otto. Otto wrote that organizers of the rally could use a PR person because “they lose me when they wrap themselves in flags of other countries and attack this one� – that was after he wrote that Congressional Candidate Al Fox had told him that he had suggested to a protestor with an A Mexican flag what would she do if he offered her an American Flag. The response was that she would use the American flag to wipe a certain part of her anatomy. Gonzalez claims that woman was Cuban, not Mexican (roll tape#4 o.q.�just the negative things�)

And Blanca Gonzalez says her group will begin holding Voter registration drives, beginning this weekend.

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