America is a
country of immigrants. Immigrants built this country, and immigrants enrich our
culture and our economy with their hard work, taxes and consumer spending. It’s
impossible to imagine what the United States would be like without immigrants,
yet some advocates are calling for "a day without immigrants" on May
1, pushing for immigrants to stay home from work and to stay out of stores.
As the movement for immigrant rights
gains momentum, a nationwide boycott and general strike is not the best way to
push for just reform. As a tactic, it is just too risky. Immigrant workers who
skip work are likely to lose their jobs, and most are already economically
vulnerable. A tactic that hurts those it purports to support is simply
Organizers are naive regarding the
tremendous undertaking of a nationwide boycott. It would be exceedingly
difficult to pull off, and its almost certain failure will distract from the
huge benefits immigrants bring to the U.S.
A study by the National Academy of
Sciences found that immigrants and their immediate descendents pay $80,000 more
in taxes than they receive in benefits during their lifetime. Immigrant workers
comprise close to 15% of America’s labor force and, without them, our output of
goods and services would decrease by more than $1 trillion. Nearly half of all
agricultural workers in our country are immigrants. Also, the Latino and Asian-American
consumer markets accounted for more than $1 trillion in buying power in 2004.
Promoting comprehensive immigration
reform is crucial to the well-being of our country. We must allow the millions
of undocumented workers in the country to emerge from the shadows, rewarding
their hard work with opportunity. We must move to provide a path to
Instead of a strike, some have plans on
May 1 for teach-ins, interfaith vigils and solidarity events that unite workers
and their employers to build on the massive public rallies that have occurred
in cities around the country.
We simply cannot have and should not want
a day without immigrants in America. Immigrants are an inextricable part of
what makes our country strong.
is co-director of Make the Road by Walking and a senior fellow at the Drum
Major Institute for Public Policy.