Workers split on boycott

Local immigrants unsure of national movement

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Somos America. We are America.

The slogan captures the belief of many that the people living in the United States -- whether illegally or legally -- make this country what it is. That belief is part of what's backing a national march and boycott planned for Monday to protest legislation that would make it a felony for undocumented immigrants to live or work in the U.S.

Immigrant supporters are expected to unite across Colorado and the nation Monday in an attempt to send a message to the government: Somos America.

The march, which some are calling "A Day Without Immigrants" and "National Day of Action," encourages illegal immigrants, legal immigrants and their supporters to wear white, skip school and work and forgo shopping in hopes of emphasizing the economic impact immigrants have in the U.S.

Steamboat Springs resident Jose Luis Izquierda said Friday that he had heard of the march, but he wasn't sure whether participating would make a difference.

"I don't know if I will I do it. Monday is just another day -- one day isn't going to anything," he said.

Izquierda said he lives in Steamboat legally and works for Windemere Landscape & Garden Center to support his family. Because of his legal status, Izquierda said he is not as concerned about the recent bill that would crack down on illegal immigration -- making it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally -- as some of his Steamboat friends are.

"We are not criminals," Izquierda said. "Legal or illegal, documents or no, we are here to work. We are Mexicans, not criminals."

Izquierda said some of the illegal immigrants he has talked to are scared about the legislation's potential.

"They are afraid. They have fear," he said. "I have the same feelings for them."

For that reason, Juan Jose Gutierrez, the national coordinator for Latino Movement USA, is encouraging immigrants and their supporters to flood America's streets Monday to "make it clear to Congress and the Bush administration that we expect them to behave responsibly."

"We're going to have millions of working men and women and students who support this cause for justice stand up and have their voices heard," he said Thursday in New York.

Gutierrez said organizers chose May 1 for the boycott because it is International Work--er's Day.

Like Izquierda, Gutierrez agrees that one of the strongest messages the boycott and the opposition will send is that immigrants are not criminals.

"These individual workers are not criminals. They are workers. They pay taxes. They adhere to the law. They enrich their communities," he said.

"They want America to recognize their contributions to this country and to not abuse them," he said.

Gutierrez said a national boycott is just one method organizers are taking.

"We want to make it clear that after May 1, there will be a May 2 and May 3 and so on. We're all in the boat moving in the same direction," he said.

Although a massive boycott is planned for Monday in Denver, very few local residents seemed aware of it.

Comunidad Integrada administrative assistant Karina Craig said Saturday that she was not aware of any boycott and that the group had not planned anything in observance of May 1.

Comunidad Integrada, or Integrated Community, is a group dedicated to bridging the gaps between the Yampa Valley's immigrant population and the rest of the community.

Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Dale Coyner said the police department was not aware of any planned boycott or movement.

Fiesta Jalisco manager Mario Rodriguez said his restaurant will be closed Monday, partly in observance of the boycott and partly to finish some restaurant improvements.

Rodriguez said the restaurant's owner made the decision to close.

"It was his decision. He said, 'We're closing,'" Rodriguez said Saturday.

Rodriguez declined to comment further about the boycott or the store's closure.

Although the proposed demonstrations and boycotts may not affect Steamboat and Routt County as much as other parts of the state and nation, Defend Colorado Now co-director Fred Elbel said the problem of illegal immigration is affecting the state and country and that a boycott is fruitless.

"(On Monday), we're going to see a bunch of illegal immigrants parading around, and it is going to irritate the heck out of the American people," he said.

Defend Colorado Now is an organization working to pass a pro-citizen, pro-legal immigrant amendment to the Colorado constitution to ensure that non-emergency taxpayer-funded public services such as welfare and food stamps go only to those residing and working in Colorado legally.

Elbel said he thinks Coloradans are fed up with illegal immigrants taking advantage of "rights they don't have."

"(Illegal immigrants) are demanding rights they feel they are entitled to but that do not exist. What we have is a crisis in our country, an illegal immigration crisis," he said.

To move forward with the initiative, the group must collect 68,000 signatures by Aug. 7.

Elbel said he is confident the amendment will pass, especially considering the phone calls Defend Colorado Now has received in recent weeks.

"The people in Colorado are upset about this. Every time there is a (pro-illegal immigrant) rally in downtown (Denver), our phones ring off the hook. It's not just in Denver, either, it's everywhere," he said.

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