Economic strike by immigrants cuts school attendance

By Nancy Gutierrez

Close to 1,000 students throughout the Lindsay Unified School District did not attend school on Friday, Dec. 12. The mass absences were not due to illness but were the result of a national economic strike by Mexican-Americans and Latinos who answered a call from the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA).

Hundreds of families in and around Lindsay pulled their children out of school, did not go to work, and did not shop in stores or buy gasoline in protest of the legislature's decision to repeal Senate Bill 60 a law that would reform the existing Department of Motor Vehicles requirements to obtain a valid California Drivers License or Identification Card.

A statement by Nativo Vigil Lopez, the National President of MAPA and the Hermanadad Mexican Latinoamericana, said that the economic strike was a non-violent answer of non-cooperation and non-participation in an economic system that denies a sector of laborers their basic rights.

"What would the California economy look like without Mexicans and Latinos," Lopez asks.

In Lindsay the result was having 25 percent of the student population missing. Though that number is not representative of the Hispanic student population in Lindsay, administrators felt the ramifications of that many students absent from schools. LUSD receives $26 for every student in school each day. With approximately 1,000 students gone Friday, the district lost around $26,000 in just one day.

This is the effect participants in the walkout were looking for. Maria Varela, a legal resident of California who was born in Mexico, and who has her drivers license, said the point of the protest was to show how much the Hispanic population contributes to the local economy.

"I have a driver's license and my papers, but we have to help those people who don't and speak for them," she said.

She is referring to undocumented workers or any person illegally residing in the United States. SB 60 would change current legislation to allow illegal immigrants the opportunity to apply for a driver's license.

Specifically it would:

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