California Democrats Support 'Great American Boycott'

Some Democratic state lawmakers are planning to walk off the job Monday - just as millions of others around the country are expected to - in support of immigrants' rights.

The Democratic-controlled Senate, on a party-line vote, approved a resolution supporting the May 1 "Great American Boycott 2006," which supporters say will serve as a warning to Congress to avoid punitive immigration reform.

Organizers believe the boycott, in which large numbers of students also are expected to participate, will show just how vital immigrants are to America's major cities and the nation's economy.

"These immigrants are fighting to embrace this nation," said Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys. "What a good time this is when people can express their anger, their frustration, desires, hopes and dreams, all for the purpose of becoming American. That's a good thing."

Republicans voted unanimously against the resolution, saying it encourages lawlessness.

"The Legislature should not be encouraging students to leave school," said Southern California Sen. Dave Cox. "And, it's irresponsible to recommend to people they leave their jobs, especially when many can lose those jobs, whether they obtained them illegally or not."

Earlier this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, implored people to avoid the boycott.

"There are only downsides," he said. "It's bad for workers because some of them will get fired. It's bad for people who they work for because they will not have the workers scheduled to do the job. And it's bad for children if they don't go to school. The way you show that you can become a great contribution to this country and state is by going to school and being responsible."

The resolution to support the boycott isn't supported by all Democrats. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, called on immigrants to stay on the job unless they get their employers' permission, and for children to stay in school. He refused to take up the Senate resolution, and allowed his chambers' own resolution, which would have called on Congress to support immigrants' rights, to die.

Still, Nunez plans on flying down to Los Angeles to take part in marches, after he checks in at the Assembly Monday morning. Members are supposed to be at the Capitol on session days, which are Mondays and Thursdays.

"When you're with thousands of your constituents and you're talking about the very issues at the forefront of their concerns," said Steve Maviglio, Nunez's deputy chief of staff, "I think you're being an effective legislator."

Dick Ackerman, the Senate Republican minority leader from Tustin, said lawmakers should set an example by showing up to work.

"They should be prepared to do the state's work," he said. "A boycott is not taking care of the state's work."

Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, voted in favor of the resolution, but called on parents to urge their children to stay in school.

Teachers should use the boycott as a way to "discuss the value, the history, the conflicts and the enrichment of our society that has come about with the waves of immigration in our time," said Torlakson, a former educator. "But we should also urge students to stay in school to underscore the value of education and use it as an opportunity to learn in a school setting."

But, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who authored the resolution, said the boycott will be part of history that will one day be recounted in classrooms across the country.

"It's one day out of 365, out of their lives," she said, "for immigrants to peacefully tell the country that we matter, we want justice."

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