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May 1, 2006
Sun Still Setting In The West

It appears that the nationwide strike by illegal immigrants and their supporters caused some headaches but little immediate economic impact, as outside of Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles most demonstrations attracted significantly fewer numbers than earlier rallies. Despite numbering in the tens of millions, the demonstrations only mustered a few hundred thousand opponents to the get-tough approach taken by the House, forcing local employers to shut down but hardly causing a blip in the routine for most Americans:

Police estimated 400,000 people marched through Chicago's business district and tens of thousands more rallied in New York and Los Angeles, where police stopped giving estimates at 60,000 as the crowd kept growing.

An estimated 75,000 rallied in Denver, more than 15,000 in Houston and 30,000 more across Florida. Smaller rallies in cities from Pennsylvania and Connecticut to Arizona and South Dakota attracted hundreds not thousands.

In Los Angeles, protesters wearing white and waving U.S. flags sang the national anthem in English as traditional Mexican dancers wove through the crowd. In Chicago, illegal immigrants from Ireland and Poland marched alongside Hispanics as office workers on lunch breaks clapped. In Phoenix, protesters formed a human chain in front of Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores. A protest in Tijuana, Mexico blocked vehicle traffic heading to San Diego at the world's busiest border crossing.

So far it appears that Chicago outdrew Los Angeles, where the protests closed down about a third of the small businesses in the area, according to the AP. However, in a story that will likely have immigration hardliners talking for days, the AP reports that twenty-five percent of the children in the Los Angeles School District failed to attend classes today. After all, LAUSD's annual budget for its 746,000 students is over $13 billion, or about $17,000 per student. If the walkout caused 25% of the students to strike, that puts the annual educational cost for illegal immigrants at around $3.25 billion -- just for Los Angeles.

You can bet that a lot of people will do precisely these kinds of calculations nationwide. How many students walked out in Chicago? In Houston? In Denver? One of the reasons why illegal immigrants existed in the shadows was to avoid this kind of exposure, but that's no longer operative. Now that they have decided to make this kind of statement, the true costs of their residency will start coming into focus, as well as their production.

Not that the sacrifice will mean anything to the cause. One-day boycotts and walkouts rarely have any real economic impact, for one good reason: people will still return to shop tomorrow. The restaurants that closed yesterday may have the hardest time with a one-day strike as so much of their business depends on whim, but the groceries, clothing stores, and gas stations will recover with little ill effect. People will buy clothes, food, and gasoline when needed, and skipping a day will do almost nothing to overall production.

The political damage, however, may be quite extensive. The administration has attempted to quietly push a liberal reform package through Congress that delivers most of what the demonstrators demand. However, the spectacle of illegal immigrants demanding that Americans capitulate to their agenda only strengthens the opponents to the administration's approach. Time Magazine explains:

Congressional strategists in both parties say the boycotts and work stoppages across the country Monday are likely to hurt chances of persuading conservative lawmakers to go along with an immigration bill this year. Key aides still hold out hope for sending one to President Bush's desk before midterm elections, but were shaking their heads as they watched television coverage of small businesses that had to shut down and suburban work sites that were empty because of a national demonstration that proponents call a "Day Without Immigrants."

The size of the pro-immigrant marches that swept the country earlier this spring — fueled primarily by Spanish-language radio stations, Catholic organizers and liberal activists — stunned lawmakers and caused several Senators who had been on the sidelines to begin working for some compromise that would both tighten borders and give some hope for illegal workers who are already in the United States. But a quick survey of Capitol Hill Monday showed that the new round of events, coordinated by unions and civil-rights groups on behalf of illegal immigrants, may be counterproductive.

The demonstrations actually created a rare point of agreement among legislators from both parties: the boycott made it harder to argue against tougher enforcement of immigration laws. Americans don't particularly care for uninvited guests to dictate how the nation should define its borders, as Rassmussen notes; a majority of respondents disapprove of immigration protestors and over two-thirds oppose full amnesty, one of the key demands. When the public notes that the sun still set in the West after the boycott and rises in the east tomorrow, they will find these demonstrations even less persuasive.

Hot Air has ongoing field reports here.

UPDATE: For those disputing the notion that 25% of the students could be illegals, it's worth noting that Hispanics comprise 72% of the district's students. Also, the entire idea of the walkout was to demonstrate the impact and extent of illegal immigrants in our midst -- and you can be sure that the boycott's organizers will be heralding that number as proof of that impact. According to LAUSD guidelines, any absenteeism over 10% in a single day represents a mass absence that requires a special report to the Pupil Statistics Office. In 2004, the LAUSD found absenteeism such an issue that it required a special initiative to correct. The average absenteeism for that year was as follows:

Elementary Schools 95.33% attendance; 4.67% absent
Middle School 93.50% attendance; 6.5% absent
High School 89.93% attendance; 10.07% absent

That averages somewhere around 7% absenteeism, making today's figures more than three times that total. Even if the 7% normal figure would have no children of illegals, that makes 18% of the district illegals -- and those were just the ones who walked out. Eighteen percent of $13.4 billion still amounts to $2.4 billion, every year, and just in the LAUSD.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 1, 2006 6:22 PM

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