Politics & Policy

Boycott & Backlash

May Day in New New Mexico.

Today’s May Day general strike by illegal aliens and their supporters should help clarify the Senate’s immigration deliberations. The question before senators, as they seek to pass an immigration bill before Memorial Day, no longer concerns the specifics of policy–how much border fencing, the period of work for guestworkers, etc.

The question now is whether the government of the United States will give in to the mob.

France recently answered that question in the affirmative (for the umpteenth time), when Chirac backed down from his comically small employment reforms in the wake of mass protests. In Latin America, street protests have toppled two presidents in Bolivia since 2003 and one in Ecuador last year.

But the use of direct action to intimidate lawmakers is largely alien to American experience. The civil-rights marches, which the illegal-alien movement frequently points to as its inspiration, were explicitly patriotic and constitutional affairs. The 1963 march on Washington didn’t feature foreign flags and racist, anti-American signs; on the contrary, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech pointed to the promise of “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” written by “the architects of our Republic,” and his peroration was based on the lyrics of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

The illegal-alien marches, starting almost two months ago in Chicago, have more in common with the anti-war marches of the 1960s in their hostility to the American constitutional order. Prominent among the organizers of the street actions have been CISPES, the ANSWER Coalition, and other communist organizations, with CAIR and its ilk joining in, Subcomandante Marcos sending Zapatistas to protest at our embassy in Mexico City–and even Mumia Abu-Jamal expressing his solidarity!

Of course, both the civil-rights and antiwar protests of the 1960s were by Americans demanding the attention of their fellow countrymen. By contrast, the illegal-alien marchers are morally identical to burglars demanding that the homeowner rearrange the furniture. And part of that rearranging became clear last week when a Spanish-language rewrite of the national anthem was released (by a producer with his own colorful Marxist backstory). And Mexico, following the example of Muslim countries boycotting Danish products, is expecting a boycott of American products, called the “Nothing Gringo” campaign.

The illegal-alien marches resemble the Vietnam protests in another way–they’re backfiring. Just as the antiwar movement’s hatred of America caused a backlash that prolonged the war, the illegal-alien marches are hardening attitudes against illegals. A recent poll shows that the earlier marches made respondents less likely, by two-to-one, to be sympathetic to amnesty. The illegal-alien anthem has been denounced by President Bush (of all people), and a resolution is likely to be introduced today by Sen. Lamar Alexander affirming that “that statements or songs that symbolize the unity of the American Nation, including the National Anthem, the Oath of Allegiance sworn by new U.S. citizens, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States, should be recited or sung in the common language of the United States: English.” (I boldly predict this will be approved.)

The marches are moving black Americans to finally speak out against mass immigration; Los Angeles homeless activist Ted Hayes, for instance, has organized the Crispus Attucks Brigade of the Minuteman Project. And the “Nothing Gringo” campaign in Mexico has prompted a “Nothing Mexican” backlash for Cinco de Mayo.

The more mainstream pro-amnesty forces understand the potential for an intensified anti-illegal backlash from today’s marches, which is why many did not join in. One amnesty supporter said the May Day offensive “could further polarize the debate and make reform supporters seem anti-American just as lobbyists are trying to persuade lawmakers in Washington to pass a bill that would benefit immigrants.”

This concern, though, is too little, too late. At this point, an immigration vote in the Senate will not, and should not, be about the particulars of policy. Rather, a vote for anything other than an enforcement-only bill would represent a surrender to the mob, a capitulation to the illegal-alien will to power. There will be plenty of time in coming years for Congress to debate the legitimate questions of legalization or guestworker programs–but now it’s time for senators to push back and pass an enforcement-only bill, to make clear that in the United States, laws are made in the Capitol, not in the streets.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO contributor.

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