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LA Businesses: Monday's Immigrant Boycott had Small Effect


Monday's boycott of businesses by Hispanic activists produced a ripple in the economy of one immigrant-rich city, according to a study in Los Angeles.

In cities around the United States, hundreds of thousands of people rallied Monday to demand rights for the millions who are in the United States illegally. It was billed by its organizers as a day without immigrants, and many took the day off work and school. Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, says the walkout cost Los Angeles more than $52 million.

"And this represents lost wages by the demonstrators, because a lot of the people were told 'you can take the day off, but you won't get paid.' And then you had the independent truckers at the ports. They did not work either shift on Monday," he said.

He says the Los Angeles school district also lost money, because some 70,000 students failed to come to class, and schools are paid by the state based on daily attendance. Many businesses were also closed along the protest routes, where shops and offices were not accessible.

The economist says immigrants, many of whom are in the United States illegally, are an important part of the local economy.

"You have a labor force in LA County of about five million people," he added. "If you use some standard metrics that you get, say, from the Pew Hispanic Center, you would come up with maybe 244,000 of these people would be undocumented and that's a significant labor force."

Still, the analyst says, the boycott was a not major disruption to the local economy.

"You can say it's a hiccup, because the overall economy is a $1.2 billion a day affair," he explained.

He says the greatest impact was on Latino-owned businesses.

As many as 12 million people may be in the United States illegally, and more than seven million may be part of the U.S. workforce. One New York analyst said the main impact of Monday's demonstration was to highlight the role of immigrants in the U.S. economy.

Not all who joined the demonstrations supported the boycott, and some worry it could produce a backlash among those who are calling for stricter border controls. The Latino mayor of Los Angeles urged people to stay at school or work and join the rallies and demonstrations in their free time late in the day.

Economist Jack Kyser says most business owners want a humane solution to the illegal worker-question, but worry that employers could be required to enforce immigration law after Congress finally settles the issue.