I’m curious if anyone has seen any figures on the impact of the “Day Without Immigrants,” especially economically. I haven’t seen anything. Frankly, I’m dubious as to the effect of one-day boycotts of any kind. Most people will just defer activity for a day. If you don’t buy your groceries today, you’ll buy them tomorrow. If the tomatoes aren’t picked today, they’ll be picked tomorrow. And so on.
What I have seen is reports of the impact of the day on immigrant businessmen. After all, aren’t the small businessmen who choose to operate in immigrant neighborhoods—usually immigrants themselves—going to be the hardest hit? Wal-Mart will shrug off the blip in it’s multi-million-dollar per day sales, but the little store without any income for a day could hurt, especially if he chooses to remain open against community pressure.
Wanderlei Sousa of the Brazilian dress shop on Peabody’s Central Street told a dark story about yesterday’s so-called Day Without Immigrants. Sousa was among those immigrant businesspeople who stayed open. Others decided to close — like the Brazilian bakery on Walnut Street. Sousa was no fan of the boycott, pointing out that it mainly hurt immigrant shopkeepers like himself. “It’s been very, very slow,” he said.
On a normal Monday morning, he said, he could expect to do 50 transactions, with many of his fellow Brazilians coming for the smart fashions popular back home. Yesterday he’d seen barely half a dozen. Sousa, who said he’s in the process of attaining legal status, acknowledged that there was pressure to close. “Some guy called me last week, a Spanish guy.” He was asked to close, and when he declined to do it, the caller suggested, “If you open — aren’t you afraid someone will break your windows?”
One other aspect of this whole immigration debate that has been disturbing has been the lack of distinctions made by pundits and the media. They seem to phrase the debate as being about immigration as a whole, when in reality what most people oppose is illegal immigration. It’s like talking about the debate over stem-cell research without making the distinction between morally appropriate adult stem cells and immorally obtained embryonic stem cells. The debate would be much more honest if we could be more careful in making distinctions.