It was supposed to be a "day without immigrants," but Boise's May Day was primarily a "day with one small protest." Several dozen protesters marched on the Boise offices of U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and others of the Idaho Congressional delegation Monday morning, to draw attention to what they say are overly harsh anti-immigration proposals now under discussion in Congress.
"We want our representatives to know that Idaho students stand united for fair and comprehensive immigration reform--immigration reform that respects civil rights, reunites families, protects workers, and offers a path to citizenship," said event organizer Jenny Gallegos, a student at Boise State and a member of MEChA, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan."We are America's future and it's time for youth to unite and take that future into our own hands."
To the honks of passing motorists, students carried signs reading "We Are America's Future," and similar statements.
And that, curiously, was about it for the immigration protests that, according to The Associated Press, garnered more than a million people nationwide. Idaho's Hispanic population, and Boise's in particular, appeared to stay on the job and off the streets.
"In the end, we don't want community members to be fired," said Leo Morales, an organizer for the Idaho Community Action Network.
It's not as if Hispanics aren't a presence in Idaho. Look at any indicator of the state's economy to find their presence. Buying power of Hispanics alone is up to nearly five percent in 2005, compared with less than three percent in 1990, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor. More than 600 businesses are characterized as Hispanic-owned, with a 2002 payroll of $65 million.
As for undocumented Mexican immigrants, a Boise State researcher found that the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants in Idaho was about 40,000 at the low end in 2004 and 2005, up from a low estimate of about 20,000 in 1999. Using Census Bureau information, Boise State sociology professor Huei-Hsia Wu found that undocumented Mexican workers accounted for 5 percent of the entire Idaho labor force in 2004.