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Boycott US firms, Mexicans are urged

Push for reform on immigration

MEXICO CITY -- ''Nothing gringo," warns the rallying cry of Mexican activists calling for a boycott of all US businesses south of the border on May 1.

The campaign, aimed at pressuring Congress to legalize undocumented migrants, was timed to coincide with ''The Great American Boycott," in which activists are urging migrants in the United States to skip work and avoid spending money to demonstrate their importance to the US economy.

The Mexican boycott was being promoted on websites and through e-mail messages, one of which warns that ''people shouldn't buy anything from the interminable list of American businesses in Mexico."

''That means no Dunkin' Donuts, no McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Sears, Krispy Kreme, or Wal-Mart," the message said.

Promoted by some of the same groups that organized massive immigrant marches across the United States, the protest -- also dubbed ''A Day Without Immigrants" -- comes as Congress debates immigration bills proposing everything from toughened border security to the legalization of all 11 million undocumented migrants in America.

Mexican unions, political and community groups, newspaper columnists, and even some Mexican government offices have joined the call for a parallel boycott of US businesses in Mexico. For some it's a way to express anti-US sentiment, while others see it as part of a cross-border, Mexican-power lobby.

Advocates occasionally missed their mark in identifying boycott targets. For example, they incorrectly identified Sears stores in Mexico as American-owned even though Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim bought Sears Mexico operation in 1997.

And in an ironic twist, the protest targets the US business community, one of the strongest supporters of legalization or guest-worker programs.

''Boycotting would only hurt corporations that are backing what people want done in the immigration bill," said Larry Rubin, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico.

In place of a boycott, Rubin encouraged Mexicans who have relatives in the United States to urge family members to write to their lawmakers in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

For some, the boycott was fueled not just by debate on the immigration bill, but by long-standing resentment over the perceived mistreatment of Mexicans in the United States.

''We want to show the power we have as Mexicans," said Carlos Chavez y Pacho, vice president of the chamber of commerce in Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas.

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