Hispanics Threaten Boycott Over License Veto
Pro-Immigrant Groups Are Organizing Protests, Boycott
Sep 24, 2004 5:16 pm US/Pacific
SAN DIEGO (AP) Angered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto this week of a bill to allow illegal immigrants to drive legally in California, Hispanic leaders and pro-immigrant groups are organizing protests and a national boycott of the state in their campaign to win the licenses.
Supporters of the bill, which was approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, said the Republican governor will pay a political price for reneging on promises to reach a compromise. They charge that Schwarzenegger belatedly added a demand that such licenses be specifically marked to differentiate them from licenses held by U.S. citizens and legal residents, a suggestion many said would encourage discrimination and persecution.
"If this is the posture the governor wants to take, then our community is going to be forced to kick it up a notch," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association and Hermandad Mexicana, based in Southern California.
Lopez, who led a one-day state boycott in December over the same issue, said he will organize a national boycott to drive convention business away from such popular destinations as San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Francisco.
His organizations, which represent 140,000 people, have begun talking to other groups to plan their strategy. Already, dozens of picketers, including Catholic priests, marched outside Schwarzenegger's Los Angeles office on Friday; a much larger protest march is planned for Los Angeles on Oct. 16.
Mike Wilzoch, San Diego director of the Service Employees International Union, which has 30,000 workers statewide, said his organization likely would begin protests after the November election. However, union leaders said they doubt a boycott would cause Schwarzenegger to change his mind.
Opponents of the drivers' license bill, Wilzoch said, need to realize that without the labor of undocumented workers, "the economy of this state would fold."
"The notion that they're good enough to pick our crops, clean our buildings, take care of our kids, do a thousand absolutely essential jobs for us, but they can't drive -- how does that serve anyone's interest?"
Supporters of the bill argue that allowing illegal immigrants to have licenses would improve public safety by requiring them to know the rules of the road and obtain insurance. Opponents cite security concerns, and say granting licenses would encourage illegal immigration.
About one-quarter of the 26 million to 30 million drivers on state roadways each day lack insurance, according to the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which backed the bill sponsored by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. An estimated 2.4 million people living in California are illegal immigrants.
The dispute threatens to grow into the same sort of controversy that divided the state in 1994, when voters approved Proposition 187, which denied social services such as education and health benefits to illegal immigrants -- a move eventually overturned in courts. It was the same year the state began requiring proof of legal residency for driver's license applicants
A 1994 state boycott led by Hispanic groups resulted in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists canceling plans to meet in San Diego. The Mexico City-based World Boxing Council also withdrew from title fights in the state.
The National Council of La Raza said Friday it would consider canceling its planned 2008 convention in San Diego if a boycott proceeds, said Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the Washington-based umbrella group of 300 organizations. The convention would draw 25,000 to 30,000 people, she said.
While the council wouldn't take action without the support of its California affiliates, she said, "if they raise that issue with us, we obviously would take it very, very seriously."
Cedillo, who plans to introduce a new version of the bill in December, said those opposed to Schwarzenegger's veto should take action.
Others questioned whether a boycott was appropriate, noting that conventions buoy employment of workers in hotels, restaurants and other services.
"Ultimately, a boycott hurts everybody," said Sal Giametta, spokesman for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau. He recalled that Arizona's lack of a formal Martin Luther King holiday cost it the 1993 Super Bowl, which ended up in Pasadena.
"Certainly it behooves us to find a way to get beyond these issues," he said.
Approximatly 15 states issue drivers licenses to illegals. thankfully California is not one of them.
Well if all the illegals get together and protest it would be the perfect time for the INS to round them up and deport their asses.
If they all stay home from work on the same day the commute is going to be so much faster.
I would shit myself laughing if i heard they had a round-up there
"You don't need to drive! Free bussing..... back to Mexico.."