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Column 112403 Thompson

Monday, November 24, 2003

 

The threat of civil resistance in California

 

By Barnard R. Thompson

 

On authority of the Spanish language media, particularly in Mexico, supporters of California Senate Bill 60 are planning ever more insistent actions in an effort to keep the incoming legislation in effect.  SB 60 is the initiative that will allow illegal immigrants access to driver’s licenses as of January 1, 2004.  It is the legislation signed into law by former Governor Gray Davis, in what was seen by many as part of a political ploy to gain Latino votes against his recall.  And it is legislation that contributed considerably to the perception of civil infidelity that sweep Davis from office and brought about the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

In turn, Governor Schwarzenegger has petitioned the California legislature to repeal SB 60 — and that action could come as early as this week.

 

Advocates in favor of licensing undocumented non-citizen applicants are calling for a series of nonviolent civil resistance activities similar in strategy to actions espoused by Indian national leader Mahatma Gandhi against the British (with a little bit of César Chávez thrown in).  Certain of those tactics and plans were borrowed by the National Action Party (PAN) to muster public outrage and civil disobedience against Mexico’s all powerful PRI-government in the 1980s and 1990s, and now expatriates and activists are planning and seeking to initiate the same types of actions in California.

 

But can those in favor of SB 60 truly expect to accomplish their goals?  Or might all of this backfire, and in the long run do more harm than good?

 

In response to Schwarzenegger’s stance, groups and organizations in California that support undocumented immigrants have announced plans for an economic stoppage and boycott of the state on December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The venerable Virgin of Guadalupe was also a standard used by Vicente Fox during his presidential campaign in 2000.

 

Hermandad Mexicana, an organization in California headed by Nativo López, is said to be the primary organizer of the planned December 12 protests.  López reportedly was the one who first recommended SB 60 to its author, former assemblyman and now state senator Gil Cedillo.

 

According to the Mexico City daily El Universal (November 19), López is calling Schwarzenegger’s request to rescind SB 60 “a declaration of war.”

 

López said there is to be a general strike the El Universal piece went on, and he is “inviting Latinos and SB 60 sympathizers not to go to work on December 12.  Furthermore, the proposal asks California’s Latino community not to purchase anything on that day, not to go to entertainment or sports centers, not to eat out, not to call long distance, not to make bank deposits or transfer money to Mexico, and to keep children home from school.

 

“We want to show the power the Latino community has on the economy of California,” López told El Universal.  On November 17 the correspondent for Reforma quoted López: “We want to send a message to Republicans, that if they are going to continue to intrude and interfere in personal lives we are prepared to take measures to likewise interfere in the economy of California.”

 

The Reforma piece also said that the December 12 actions are but the beginning in a series of protest activities, by a number of organizations, to demand respect of SB 60.  There are to be additional economic slowdowns, as well as demonstrations, marches, letter writing and Internet campaigns, and “a series of boycotts against certain companies that support Republicans.”

 

On November 12 affiliates of the Coalición Nacional Pro Leyes y Prácticas Justas de Migración demonstrated in front of the federal building in Los Angeles.  And on November 18 a caravan of immigrant groups, led by Juan José Gutiérrez of the Movimiento Latino USA, descended on Sacramento.

 

Gutiérrez, in excerpts that ran in Mexico’s El Financiero on November 19, earlier told the Los Angeles, California, Spanish language newspaper La Opinión: “If Arnold wants to revive the anti-immigrant policy of a decade ago with Proposition 187 in California, we declare ourselves to be in a permanent state of activism with the primary elections of next March in mind.  If before they sentenced us to be modern slaves, this time we are not going to concede the gains and conquests that favor minorities.”

 

The Latino Round Table, an organization based in Riverside and San Bernardino, will march from Chino to downtown Los Angeles on December 3, in part at least to promote the December 12 planned mass protests and whatever may take place thereafter.