Charles Hurt, Washington Times, May 2, 2006
House Republicans called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prosecute businesses shut down yesterday by their illegal alien employees who took the day off to participate in protests of immigration legislation.
“Too often, we presume that fault lies with the illegal migrant worker, but we need to recognize that the employer broke the law by hiring the illegal alien,” wrote Republican Reps. Jack Kingston of Georgia and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. “We believe the federal government has an obligation to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and must actively investigate any and all instances where it is apparent industries have knowingly and willingly hired those who entered this country illegally.”
In a letter to ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, Mr. Kingston and Mrs. Blackburn noted “the multiple reports in the news media today regarding companies which have been forced to halt operations because large numbers of their employees appear to be in the United States illegally and are participating in the protest rallies.”
“ICE has an obligation to use this public information to enforce immigration laws,” they wrote. “We respectfully request that you look into this matter and report back to us on your findings.”
Major American companies that rely on cheap labour took a surprisingly supportive view of the army of workers taking part in immigrant rights protests.
Immigrant workers were in turn, however, nervous about taking part in a strike, which they had feared could lose them their jobs.
McDonald’s, the fast-food giant, even paid tribute to its foreign workers and said it “strongly supports” immigration reform.
“Immigrants have contributed to the growth and prosperity of our nation and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” said a statement issued by the company to mark the “Day Without Immigrants” protests.
“Some of our employees may be participating in today’s activities. We respect their right to do so. To meet our customers’ needs, some of our restaurants may be operating with limited crew, limited hours or drive-thru service only,” it warned.
Food giants such as Tyson Food Inc. and Cargill Foods said they would close about 20 plants between them on Monday. Goya Foods announced a complete halt to daily distribution.
Gallo Wines in California said it also closed some operations because of the protests.
All the companies said they understood the sentiments behind the protest. “We share many of the same concerns about some of the proposals in Washington,” said Cargill spokesman Mark Klein.
A sign on the America’s Stores supermarket declared: “We are closed because we love to support our wonderful neighborhood”. Other stores put up signs saying: “I Love Immigrant New York”.