Friday, April 28, 2006

Diversity of national and local opinion about action on May 1 and beyond

Hispanic residents of the U.S. have differing opinions about how immigration issues should be confronted, and that difference of opinion has sparked a dialog about the proper way for immigrants and their supporters to express themselves. This story on NPR and this Reuters story touch on those differences among people who share common goals.

The current focus of the discussion is the national movement scheduled for May 1, the focus of which is to make a statement by taking Hispanics temporarily out of the U.S. economy. Whether such a statement will be heard and whether there will be backlash are issues being discussed both nationally and locally. Two local opinions on this subject are below.

update 4/29/06:The Tennessean in this story further reports on local disagreement with the May 1 movement.

By Patricia Nalini Paiva:

As we will undoubtedly all agree, the decision about what to do on May 1st is not a decision easy to come by. Just as “Americans” have presented so many different views on how to approach immigrants, especially undocumented ones, Hispanics also have so many varied positions based on their personal history, work background and experience. My hope is that this day can be a springboard for more dialogue among all groups. Too much has been unsaid for too many years, and whatever the end result is, we must work for better understanding among all peoples –especially as to why someone thinks they way he does.

I began leading discussions with my own employees and they are very grateful to have the chance to speak their opinions and their heart. It has been a great learning experience for them to hear other points of view. I also have tried to show them the need to educate themselves on all perspectives -- their own, those favorable to their thinking and those in opposition to their thinking. They are getting a better understanding of the complexity and difficulty of resolving this issue on a national level. An added dimension has been the fact that I also have a refugee from Iraq, one from Iran, a North Carolinian and a Salvadorian who was born here, as part of our team. We are appreciating our differences with new respect and understanding.

On May 1st, my business will be open, but I am allowing the opportunity for my employees, myself and anyone in the community, to come and participate in further discussions on all aspects of immigrants and their historic role in building the United States. Again, it will just be a beginning for encouraging people to continue thinking and trying to educate their neighbors for better understanding among all cultures here in Nashville.

We will hopefully begin the discussions at 11am.

Patricia Nalini Paiva
Intercultural Resource Specialist
Owner and General Manager
Aurora Bakery & Cafe
3725 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
Tel: 615.837.1933 / Fax: 615.837.1922

By Juan Canedo:

I personally do not agree with the May 1st action, and I and other community members suggest an alternative strategy. These are my reasons:

It is not a good idea to ask people to jeopardize their jobs.

If some members of our community lose their jobs, it will be really hard for them to get another one. And most importantly; if legislation is passed in congress to legalize undocumented immigrants, the main requirement will be to have a job at the time of applying for change of status.

I believe that it is unfair for people to lose the opportunity to be "legal" just because some people decided that the May 1st action must take place regardless of the consequences for the immigrant community.

The May 1st action does not allow members of other communities, such as the progressive or other immigrant groups to solidarize with that action, since none of those community members will miss a day of work. Will an American who does not work for a progressive nonprofit miss his or her work that day? I don't think so.

The intention of this so called "One Day Without Hispanics" is to show the American society how important is the immigrant work force in the country's economic. Therefore, the absence of Hispanic workers would people finally realize that is real. However, with these letters to request permission from employers, many employers are allowing some Hispanic workers to miss work on May 1st. Nevertheless, these employers are hiring temporary employees to keep their industries or business running. In other words, the effect of their absence will not be felt. Does it make sense? The rationale for this national day of action has completely lost its essence.

An economic boycott is a good idea because it does not jeapordize anyone's jobs. However, Monday is not a good day to do it because most people go shopping on the weekend.

This is what I propose based on my conversation with some people in the community:

We just want to have an economic boycott starting on Friday, 27 through Sunday 30. Consequently, first, the jobs of undocumented immigrants will not be jeopardized, secondly, people like you (American citizen, "documented" immigrant, African-American, etc.) immigrant and other communities could be part of this solidarity process, and finally, it will be easy to quantify the economic impact of immigrants and their allies by not paying the sales tax for 3 or 4 days.

Please spread the word about this alternative action on May 1st in your communities.

Juan Canedo

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