Thousands of people are expected to protest, strike, boycott and march throughout Santa Barbara today as part of the Great American Boycott, also known as A Day Without an Immigrant.
The protests, which are part of a larger, national campaign to bring immigrants’ rights and legislation to the forefront of national debate, will occur both downtown and in Isla Vista. Employees, UCSB students and faculty are expected to participate in the various rallies and workshops being held today and throughout the week. Local businesses, in response to the shortage of manpower they may face as a result of the walkouts, may be forced to temporarily shut down or face dissatisfied customers.
The boycott is being coordinated nationally by the National Immigrant Solidarity Network and locally by the May 1 Coalition of immigrants’ rights groups, various student groups and the UCSB Immigration Working Group. Daraka Larimore-Hall, a PUEBLO board member, said several UCSB students have already pledged to join the Santa Barbara March for Immigrant Rights, which begins downtown at Ortega Park at 3 p.m.
UCSB Concerned Students will host a teach-in featuring faculty and student speakers from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Pardall tunnel. The UCSB College Republicans are expected to “counter-protest” the Pardall demonstrations, College Republicans member Eva Kilamyan said.
The UCSB Immigration Working Group – a coalition of UCSB faculty and administrators dedicated to immigration reform – will also host workshops on immigration issues at various locations throughout the week. A full schedule of the workshops is available at http://aad.english.ucsb.edu/events.html.
Larimore-Hall said PUEBLO – a Santa Barbara-based group that advocates on behalf of the county’s low-income residents – expects thousands of people to show up for today’s protests. He said a group of UCSB students will march from campus to Ortega Park, where they will join the downtown March for Immigrant Rights. Participants will focus on the various proposals to change immigration laws, border control provisions and employment regulations that are currently before Congress.
“UCSB students will be starting at UCSB and they’ll be meeting up with high school students along the way and marching to city hall to have a rally there and then they’ll meet up with everybody else at Ortega Park,” Larimore-Hall said. “We’re trying to make sure that whatever compromise or policy is going to come out of Washington is going to include a reasonable chance at citizenship and allow undocumented workers to have dignity and protection.”
In a press release, Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the university supports the national boycott and considers the events scheduled for the upcoming week to be a potential learning experience for UCSB faculty, staff and students.
“Promoting discussion and debate is an essential part of both teaching and learning,” Yang said in the press release. “We believe that we can all learn from the events taking place on our campus and in our community during the week of May 1.”
Larimore-Hall said both undocumented and legal immigrants are choosing not to attend work today to prove what an essential role they play in the local economy. He said he thinks local law enforcement and business owners will be sympathetic to the workers and the protesters.
“Santa Barbara can’t function without immigrant workers and it’s time our community recognizes that,” Larimore-Hall said. “I’m sure that the sheriffs and our friends in the business community will be respectful and responsible. They have been in the past.”
Anticipating the absence of some of their staff, some local businesses are closing their doors or trying to compensate for the shortage in manpower.
Nate Yco, a server at the Cajun Kitchen Cafe in Goleta, said the restaurant’s owner decided to close the eatery for the day after many of the establishment’s workers announced they would not be attending work because of the boycott.
“I guess a bunch of employees said they weren’t going to be coming in. I don’t know if anything will happen to them,” Yco said. “That’s lost wages [for me]. That’s a day that I was expecting to work and I’m not going to be able to.”
John O’Keefe, a resident advisor for the Fountainebleu Residence Hall, said the building’s kitchen staff will also observe the boycott, with permission from the building’s management. To compensate for the shortage in staff, the kitchen will operate with limited service, and the building’s RAs will serve residents.
O’Keefe, a third-year computer science major, said he has heard rumors that members of the kitchen staff are illegal immigrants. He said he has also heard that some residents plan to retaliate by calling the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services if the kitchen staff participates in the walkout.
“The Resident Advisors are just going to work in the kitchen,” O’Keefe said. “I head rumors though, that if [the kitchen staff doesn’t] show up, some of the residents want to call immigration. The residents don’t agree with it and so if they don’t show up some people are going to be calling Immigration to send them home.”
O’Keefe said he personally disagrees with today’s protests.
“I think we should make it so we prove we don’t need them – so their protest fails,” O’Keefe said. “If they want to work, they should work; and if they want to make a better life for themselves, they should work to achieve it.”
Larimore-Hall said he hopes local residents and students show their support for the protesters because some of the proposed immigration reform legislation could affect everyone, not just illegal immigrants.
“I think that the first reason people should support this is that it’s a chance to participate in the birth of a historic movement,” Larimore-Hall said. “And secondly, because there are a lot of forces in our economy that are trying to drive down wages and get rid of workplace protections and job security and that is going to affect all of us. That’s going to affect the whole workplace, so standing up for the least protected helps protect all of us.”