Locals engage in boycott

BURBANK ? The usually crowded day labor centers in Burbank and Glendale didn't bother opening on Monday, as many immigrants living in those areas stayed home from work, joining in a nationwide boycott in support of rights for illegal immigrants.

Activists for immigration reform urged people not to show up to work on Monday or purchase any goods in a show of power of the immigrant population.

Burbank resident Maira Gonzalez said she told her boss in advance that she would not be going to work on Monday, in order to support the cause.

Instead, she attended a march in downtown Los Angeles Monday afternoon, where hundreds of thousands gathered in support of immigration reform.

"I have to be with all of my people," Gonzalez said.

She came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1976 and was illegal for 10 years before gaining legal status through marriage.

"It's going to be only one day," she said of the boycott. "It's going to hurt, but we have to be there for our people."

Maria Estrada, of Glendale, said she had plenty of food stocked away from a few days ago and enough gas in her car to last her through Tuesday so that she wouldn't have to make any purchases on Monday.

"I am supporting the cause in my own way," she said, adding that while she was born in the United States, many of her family members are illegal immigrants.

Estrada was planning to work on Monday, but in anticipation of the boycott employees at Labor Law Inc. ? where she works ? were told not to come in, she said.

The company audits garment factories and stores to assess if they are following labor laws, and Estrada's boss anticipated that most garment businesses in Los Angeles would be closed on Monday because of the boycott, she said.

For Silvia Alvarado, shutting down her home-based business for the day was a hardship, but there was no way she was going to work, she said.

"Today, I'm closed," the Glendale resident said Monday.

Alvarado came to the United States from Mexico in 1989 and does not have legal status in the U.S. She used to work in a convalescent home, but was always afraid that her status would be uncovered.

"I was always thinking they would catch me and send me back to Mexico," she said. "All we want is to have papers. We want to be good with the laws and be calm and not always thinking are the police going to catch me? What will I do with my kids if they send me back?"

Like many, Alvarado used the time to attend marches and rallies, which took place all day throughout Los Angeles and the nation.

While the nationwide boycott may have spurred local residents to marches and rallies throughout the county, it was business as usual at the Hilton Glendale, where a large proportion of employees are Latinos, according to General Manager Linda Norman.

But in La Cañada Flintridge, several restaurants had to close their doors on Monday because of the boycott.

Manager George Ghaby at Hill Street Café along Foothill Boulevard wanted to give his employees an opportunity to participate in the boycott's events, which included marches and rallies all day throughout Los Angeles and the nation.

"I had to," he said. "My employees gave me enough warning that they were not going to show up."

Along with the Hill Street Café, Dona Maria Mexican Restaurant was also closed because of the boycott.

And at Pepe's Mexican Restaurant, officials closed its doors when several of the cooks didn't show up to work, employee Cruz Gamez said.

QUESTION

Do you think the immigration boycott will have an effect on U.S. immigration policy? E-mail your responses to burbankleader @latimes.com; mail them to the Burbank Leader, 111 W. Wilson Ave., Glendale, CA 91203. Please spell your name and include your address and phone number for verification purposes only.

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