Mexican-American leaders back walkout

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MEXICO CITY – Following a meeting Monday with Mexican government officials, a group of Mexican-American leaders said they no longer will use the term “boycott” to describe a planned May 1 job walkout in the United States.

Instead, they will use the term “National Day of Action” to rally support for the national protest. They said that term is less divisive.

The event is designed “to show their political and economic muscle by not shopping or showing up to work next Monday,” said Hector Flores, a Dallas school administrator and national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, an advocacy group founded in Texas.

The Latino leaders, members of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, or IME by its Spanish initials, said their meeting with Mexican officials was not what made them decide on the name change.

“If anything, the officials we talked to today showed a great deal of respect, humility and patience,” said Nancy Guerrero, an IME member from Dallas. “They listened more than they talked.”

The group said that unlike a boycott, the May 1 event will not target anyone specifically but will call on people who can take a day off work with permission from their employer to do so.

Students are being urged to stay in school, they added.

“Over the last few weeks we have all earned some political capital, but we have to be very careful about how we spend that capital because at the end of the day we all want immigration reform,” said Mario Ramirez, owner of a chain of taquerias and bakeries in the Dallas area and a member of IME.

Guerrero, Flores and Ramirez were among some 40 Latino leaders from about 20 different U.S. states in Mexico City for the meeting. They are part of a Mexican government advisory council whose aim is to strengthen ties with Mexicans living abroad.

In 2002, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry established the institute, which has some 225 former and current members, including more than a dozen from the Dallas area.

Monday’s meeting in Mexico City came in the middle of a debate about whether May 1 events – called the “Great American Boycott” by some – might damage attempts to bring about legislation that would legalize a good portion of the nation’s approximately 11 million illegal immigrants.

Opponents of a boycott maintain that a proposed national school and job walkout, along with any sign of Mexico meddling in U.S. affairs, could dilute support for the legislation among the U.S. public as well as members of Congress – who are expected to take up the immigration issue this week.

“Our message to Mexico today was: We don’t want you to contaminate our movement in the United States,” said Luis de la Garza, another IME member. “This is our struggle.”

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