Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lessons From A Day Of Protests - UPDATED with Corrections

While some Hispanic-owned businesses stayed open in Morristown, Koch Foods closed on May 1, according to WATE's report. The report noted as well that "the plant manager spoke by phone with 6 News and confirmed they closed because of the immigrant day off, but he hung up when asked how many immigrants they employ." Oddly, that information was not reported at the local paper's website.

The company's employees voted in favor of forming a union to protect worker's rights last September, a story which was reported in the NYTimes and on this site. The employees are standing together for their rights - whether others agree with their efforts or not.

Given that the city has a "local" chapter of the Southwest's citizen-led border patrol organization who call themselves "Minutemen", it's not surprising to see few Hispanics taking to the streets to express opinions. However, around the nation, walk-outs and marches are attempting to give voice to the concerns of many.

I have a few thoughts about the immigration issue and on the power of protests and boycotts.

It's utterly counterproductive to begin training the state's Highway Patrol to be immigration and border patrol agents. Not only would it detract from their current responsibilities regarding public safety, it also requires even less effort from the federal INS agency (CORRECTION: Thanks to a commenter to this post, the agency was re-organized in March of 2003 as ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which you can link to here. My apologies for the error.) located in Memphis (NOTE: the new ICE office held a formal opening in June of 2005, with info on the operations available at this link). Likewise, adding tens of thousands of border patrol agents in the Southwest seems a mistake, given that so many immigrants, legal and illegal are already scattered throughout the nation. Why not allow for more ICE agents and offices within each state to search for illegals and punish businesses that use illegal labor? (UPDATE: As newly re-organized under the Dept of Homeland Security, which has a regional office at Walters State Community College, it would appear to me that greater enforcement levels would be available to this section of the state, and I'll see what I can find out regarding such programs. Thanks again to the commenter below who set me straight on the current immigration enforcement information.)

One lesson from the events of May 1st is that people who take to the streets with common goals get tremendous attention. And there are pertinent issues that should motivate millions of Americans.

Here's an example. Yesterday, the President spoke before the American Hospital Association, touting his "success" in modernizing the Medicare system, while his Treasury Secretary held a press conference announcing the program will be "belly up" in 2018, two years earlier than previously forecast. He also noted that Social Security will likewise be insolvent in 2040, also earlier than forecast. Proposals for a "commission" of congressmen to study the problem still has no commission members and with no members, of course there has been no meeting or "study". More on that story here.

Now imagine what might happen if all those who receive or pay into Medicare and Social Security were to take a day nationwide to register publicly a call for action and reform. A blog, an editorial, a special news hour on TV won't achieve what citizens can achieve - if they only make use of their rights and their voices.


  1. Anonymous10:47 AM

    It's no longer the INS. The new acronymn is ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

  2. Thanks for the correction, and apologies for the mistake. I'll make the correction in the above post and attempt to stay more current on the ever-changing rules and regs of immigration services and agencies.

  3. Joe,
    Thanks for this - I was wondering about whether anything happened at Koch.
    Rachel (born and raised in Morristown, now in Middle TN)

  4. The employees at Kock seem to have been making notable strides since they approved a union for their workers, though sadly the local news tends to ignore workers who demand dignity in the workplace.
    Thanks for reading!