U.S. firms in Mexico object to boycott

The call is moving quickly through Mexican cyberspace: Boycott the endless array of U.S. companies and restaurant chains in Mexico to pressure the U.S. Congress to legalize undocumented migrants in El Norte.

But American executives say the attack is misguided: As the largest private-sector employer in Mexico, the U.S. business community is doing more than anyone to provide much-needed jobs.

A quarter of Mexico's formal private-sector jobs with regular pay are provided by U.S. firms, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico. The nation's biggest private employer is Walmex, the Mexican subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which employs 140,000 people. Delphi Corp., the auto parts maker, is second with 70,000 workers.

And business leaders say the U.S. business community is one of the strongest supporters of legalization or guest-worker programs.

"This (boycott) is like shooting oneself in the foot," said Larry Rubin, the chamber's president. "U.S. companies have been the first to lobby, launching a huge lobbying effort for immigration reform. ... Why hurt something that is helping you?"

Under the motto "Nothing Gringo," the Mexican boycott urges people to shun all products from U.S. businesses on May 1, a sort of "Day Without Americans," timed to coincide with the "Day Without Immigrants" boycott planned by activists north of the border.

"That means no Dunkin' Donuts, no McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Sears, Krispy Kreme or Wal-Mart," reads one e-mail making the rounds.

But even the activists are confused about which companies are U.S.-owned. Sears has been mentioned by boycott organizers, despite the fact that Sears' Mexico stores were bought by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 1997. And few organizers are mentioning Vips, the chain of ubiquitous Mexican diners, even though they are owned by Wal-Mart.

Many activists in the United States are telling people to skip work and school and not spend money on May 1 to demonstrate the migrants' importance to the U.S. economy as Congress debates everything from tightening border security to offering legalization for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants, reports the AP.

I.L.