Country Braces for Immigrant Protests

ByABC News via logo
May 1, 2006, 7:25 AM

May 1, 2006 — -- Twelve percent of the U.S. population -- 33 million people -- were born in another country.

Today, millions of those immigrants are expected to protest. Organizers say it could bring more than 153 cities in 39 states across the country to a halt.

There was a time when this country welcomed immigrants -- more than 20 million of them passed through Ellis Island. Today, organizers are hoping dramatic action by millions of immigrants across the country will force a change in the way this country handles immigration.

There are rallies planned, but the biggest protests may be harder to see: a boycott. In some cities, organizers say, that means your dry cleaner may be closed today, your car wash may not be open, and your favorite restaurant may be shut down.

Today's boycott has been driven by dozens of different groups and spread by word of mouth. It's unclear whether immigrants will be able to harness the energy from today's events and force Congress or the president to make immigration changes.

The idea behind the controversial boycott is to make America notice how important immigrants are to the fabric of the nation.

"They're workers," said Juan Jose Gutierrez of Latino Movement USA. "They create wealth, they pay taxes, and they deserve recognition for their contributions to the American economy."

President Bush says the boycott is not helpful to the immigrants' cause.

"I'm not a supporter of boycotts," he said. "I think it's very important when they do express themselves they continue to do so in a peaceful way and a respectful way."

From Seattle restaurants to Vegas hotels, businesses of every sort are bracing for a financial hit. California may take the biggest hit. It has the world's fifth-largest economy, and a quarter of its population is foreign-born.

"We might not paralyze the city, but we are definitely gonna make a big, huge impact," said one of the 30,000 truckers who vowed to park their rigs today. "Thirty thousand loads that are not gonna hit the market; 30,000 loads that won't be available for the public."