While a series of marches focused much of the nation’s attention on the plight of illegal immigrants, scores of other Americans quietly seethed. Now, with the same full-throated cry expressed by those in the country illegally, they are shouting back.
Congressional leaders in Washington have gotten bricks in the mail from a group that advocates building a border fence, states in the West and South have drawn up tough anti-immigrant laws, and ordinary citizens, such as Janis McDonald of Pennsylvania, who considers herself a liberal, are not mincing words in expressing their displeasure.
“Send them back,” McDonald said. “Build a damn wall and be done with it.”
The anger evoked a word that immigrant organizers who opposed Monday’s boycott feared: backlash. McDonald and other Americans were particularly disturbed by Monday’s boycott and civil action, attended in large part by people who entered the country illegally and are now demanding rights enjoyed by U.S.-born citizens and immigrants who entered the country legally.
“How dare they,” said McDonald, a research specialist for the University of Pittsburgh who said she voted for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election. “If they are so active, why aren’t they in Mexico City, why aren’t they forcing their leaders there to deal with the quality of life? If you don’t like it here, go home.”
That strong sentiment was heard across the country, on a radio program in Los Angeles, where talk-show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou encouraged listeners to participate in a “Great American Spend-a-Lot” to offset the effect of the boycott. They vowed to reimburse listeners picked in a drawing.