An estimated one million immigrant workers and their supporters took the day off to attend rallies and boycott shopping to demonstrate their economic value to the U.S. They also called attention to their concern over proposed legislation in Congress which would fortify the U.S.-Mexico border and criminalize an estimated 11 (M) million people who entered the U.S. illegally.
Senator Barack Obama, (D) Illinois "What started out as a march born of fear, has now become a movement of hope."
Some business owners agree.
Ruben Calderon, California Produce Merchant: "I think it's the right time to let them talk. They're hard working people so I think they need some sort of legal status to be here."
To show his support, the California produce merchant closed his market for the day. Many larger corporate businesses did the same. Heavily dependent upon an immigrant labor force, several packing plants – including ConAgra and Tyson Foods – closed many of their operations to allow employees to attend the rallies.
But not everyone agreed with the day off ... including some restaurant owners who are themselves immigrants.
Raul Sanchez, Washington DC restaurant owner: "Tell everybody, 'don't go to work', is not going to help. We're going to disrupt the economy and show what?"
It isn't yet known what effect if any, the nationwide rallies will have on the congress. Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, says he wants to resume the debate this month. President Bush has said he disapproved of the workers boycott.
Whatever the outcome, agriculture will be strongly affected. According to a U.S. Department of Labor survey conducted in 2001 and 2002, 78 percent of the nation's 1.8 (M) million crop workers were born outside the country. Most were from Mexico. More than half were not authorized to work in the U.S.