Immigrants as Felons Bill Author Heir to Kleenex Fortune
April 24, 2006 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Boycotts : politics and corportate power Hispanic News on a call to boycott Kimberley Clark (Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, etc...) as the corporate member behind Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner "author/sponsor of HR 4437 which would turn 11 million undocumented immigrants into felons, punish anyone guilty of providing them assistance" and more. What's the real story here? Boycotts, are they still effective? How much of a link (symbolic or otherwise) is there between this legislation and the company? None? A little? A lot?
posted by dorcas (43 comments total)
Wow, I think I'll go out and buy a bunch of Kim-Clark products in support of their views. Thanks for this!
posted by keswick at 11:37 AM on April 24, 2006

I think that, in this day and age, the threat of a boycott isn't very effective. There are lots and lots of calls for them, but I can't recall any that have been particularly effective.

Part of this, I imagine, is the fact that there simply isn't a large enough number of people who feel strongly enough about the cause to change their habits. There are going to be some very vocal people on each side, and there are going to be some people who will "obey" each, but the majority (a vast one, I'd estimate) generally doesn't care.
posted by Godbert at 11:40 AM on April 24, 2006

Sensenbrenner is 62 years old, and based on his official photograph, is not looking at all well. He will someday die, and take his dreadful hate-mongering politics to the grave with him. I, on the other hand, will continue to blow my nose on Kleenex brand facial tissues.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:45 AM on April 24, 2006

Heh, they're also trying to boycott AOL in order to get rid of Lou Dobbs. I can't stand that fat racist douchebag, and I'd love to see him fired. I'm not sure if I support censorship via boycotts though.

And if they want to be effective they should really just chose some company that advertises on his show.

Keswick: did you know that sensenbrenner also wrote a law that sought to give anyone who sold marijuana a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. 20 years in prison if you sold near a school, to someone under 21, or someone who had ever been in a drug treatment program (whether they told you or not).

That same law also sought to introduce mandatory reporting requirements on ordinary citizens for the first time, anyone who knew anything about any drug deals would have been required to report it and cooperate fully with the police or face a mandatory minimum 2 year federal sentence

Do you also support those views?
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on April 24, 2006

No, not really. Actually, I don't even necessarily agree with HR 4437, but I don't see any other measures out there that are trying to address illegal immigration. (I mean besides the whole "c'mon in and make yourselves at home" bullshit.)
posted by keswick at 11:49 AM on April 24, 2006

Keswick: it may be illegal, but they are only guilty of civil infractions, similar to a parking ticket. They are not criminals because they are not committing any crimes. (Well, for those overstaying their visas, rather then those actually sneaking across the border).

The majority of Americans have probably committed at least one civil infraction in their lives. Probably a lot. Do you really expect me to believe you've never had a parking ticket?
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2006

Anyway, if they can get millions of people on the streets, I'm sure they can get lots of people to buy a different brand of diapers.
posted by delmoi at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2006

Nope, never had a parking ticket.

I'm sorry, I refuse to accept people coming to America illegally is acceptable. I don't think they should be warehoused in our prison system either, but the current situation is untenable. Unfortunately, I don't think any good will result from the current debate. Because anybody who dares criticize illegal immigration is instantly labelled a racist, etc, etc. We had our chance to put a stop to this nonsense and we blew it, now we're gonna have to live with the consequences.
posted by keswick at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2006

What delmoi said. I was truly surprised at the turnouts across the country for the immigration/pro-immigrant protests. Hispanic radio is a big deal, and seems to have a stronger pull than most people expected.

As for the larger issue, it's complicated to say the least. But much like drugs, going after supply (the illegals) will never stop the problem. It's not just employers in TX, AZ, and CA that hire illegals for pennies per hour, it's across the country--and the GOP is powerless to do anything, because they can't risk pissing off their corporate and small-business constituents.

Make them pay into the Fed for a certain dollar amount and a certain number of years (which is a lot more than many "true" Americans with tax shelters do). Then make them citizens. Carrot and stick is the answer, IMO.
posted by bardic at 12:12 PM on April 24, 2006


Not an issue of whether you ever got caught ("Ever had a parking ticket?") but whether you committed any civil offenses. keswick may have never been caught, but if maintains he's never broken any civil ordinance, then I know he's lying. But then he refuses to accept unacceptable things, so, I guess that's a good position.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:26 PM on April 24, 2006

I'm sorry, I refuse to accept people coming to America illegally is acceptable.

And I refuse to care?

(question mark indicates sarcastic uptalk, rather then a query).

Seriously though, the fact that you don't like it doesn't mean anything really.

I think the current situation is entirely tenable now and going forward. I could think of a few reforms that could be made to protect Mexicans from being exploited, but they're obviously better off here then there, or they wouldn't be here.

If it were up to me, there would be E.U. style open borders between the Us, Mexico and Canada. The economic imbalance between a country like Luxemborg and the Czech Republic are similar $55k/$18k Per Capita GPP vs. $42k/$10k Per Capita GPP.

Anyway, it's become very apparent that people who agree with me have far more political sway then people who agree with you :)
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on April 24, 2006

Sneaking into this country illegally and working at sub-minmum wages, and living in terrible conditions (Chinese illegals) is hardly the same thing as getting a parking ticket...whatever views you may have on the issue.

When I was very young, I worked at a summer resort that used Chinese illegals--I found this out much later--and they would arrive at the resort, with a huge batch of booze for the summer (they were the dishwaskers) and a young boy for fun times. At the end of the summer, we would simply drive to Chinatown, NY City, and open the door on Mott Street to let them, many years later, illegals in Chinatwon are getting paid some 3 bucks and change per hour and working minimum of 10 hours per day.

There is a problem. I do not have the answer. But I do know it is an issue well beyond "parking tickets."
posted by Postroad at 12:36 PM on April 24, 2006

I refuse to accept people coming to America illegally is acceptable.

is that a double negative? or just doubly acceptable?
posted by destro at 12:38 PM on April 24, 2006

Not an issue of whether you ever got caught ("Ever had a parking ticket?") but whether you committed any civil offenses.

Sure, but most people wouldn't know unless they got caught, since there are so many...
posted by delmoi at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2006

Sneaking into this country illegally and working at sub-minmum wages, and living in terrible conditions (Chinese illegals) is hardly the same thing as getting a parking ticket...whatever views you may have on the issue.

Well whatever the solution is, it's not throwing those people in jail. The $3/hr they make is probably a lot more then they would make at home, (although I wonder about after living expenses). In fact, legalizing immigration would prevent this exploitation from tacking place (although, I don't think global open borders would ever fly, opening the US/Mexican border would be OK)
posted by delmoi at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2006

Anyway, it's become very apparent that people who agree with me have far more political sway then people who agree with you :)

That doesn't mean they're right.
posted by keswick at 12:47 PM on April 24, 2006

What's ironic is that once thrown in jail, some illegal immigrants would probably be put to work at sub-sub-sub-minimum wages in prison jobs that compete with American companies.
posted by destro at 12:51 PM on April 24, 2006

Basically, the problem is that illegal immigration makes perfect sense in terms of free-market logic. Why pay someone $8/hr and benefits when you can pay someone $4/hr with none? Better yet, pay them $1/hr and provide 16 of them with a dank, shitty apartment and garnish their wages for bags of dank, shitty rice you provide and gasoline for rides to and from the restaurant, the construction site, the country club, etc.

Honestly keswick, is your beef really with illegals? It should be with the thousands of reputable, upstanding small- and medium- business owners in America who manage to increase their profits and avoid paying payroll taxes (and therefore compounding the problem of non-insured illegals in the medical pipeline and in under-funded public schools) by exploiting immigrants. Your outrage is justified, but misplaced.

(I had similar experiences to Postroad's working in various restaurants during summers in high school and college. Indeed, at one restaurant I got paid a little extra to take the dishwashers back to their hovel if I worked a dinner shift. Which was a pretty shitty thing for me to do, but the dishwashers told me that I'd fuck things up for them if I contacted the Deptartment of Labor.)
posted by bardic at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2006

Sensenbrenner is clearly in the pocket of the privatized prison lobby.
posted by sourwookie at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2006

Trust me, I am equally outraged with the people who employ them.
posted by keswick at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2006

I do not understand why anyone would feel that people that are here illegally have some sort of special right to stay here. I am certainly not advocating 'putting them in jail' but why do we owe them anything other than deporting them?

I am not anti-immigration at all, just somewhat anti-illegal immigration. There are plenty of people that get into the country legally. Why should I pay for services for these people? It doesn't seem to make much sense.

Can someone enlighten me to this point of view? Is it primarily a moral/conceptual argument or a practical one?
posted by sfts2 at 1:53 PM on April 24, 2006

Sensenbrenner isn't in the pocket of the private prison lobby, but he would be helping it out if he wanted to put more people in jail for crimes like this.
posted by destro at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2006

sfts2, immigrants don't come here illegally to piss you or any other American off. They come here because there is a demand on the part of many unscrupulous contractors and business owners to cut corners by ignoring Federal laws regarding minimum wage, payroll taxes, and workplace safety standards, to name a few. Take away and/or criminalize the legitimate business people who make this shadow economy possible, and you'd get rid of a lot of illegal immigration (certainly not all of it).

So for me, the supply and demand issue is entirely a practical one based on profit motivation. But it's entirely ethical as well--illegals are routinely spat upon (literally and figuratively) and blamed for a lot of social ills that they have nothing to do with. To scapegoat these people while at the same time giving a wink-wink to businesses that everyone knows is letting this happen is deeply disturbing and entirely hypocritical IMO.
posted by bardic at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2006

I still boycott Nestle...
posted by RufusW at 2:59 PM on April 24, 2006

it may be illegal, but they are only guilty of civil infractions, similar to a parking ticket. They are not criminals because they are not committing any crimes.

You apparently know that's not true. judging by your parenthetical, so why do you keep saying it?

As for the post, I don't think boycotts are particularly effective.
Did Disney notice the Baptists were boycotting them (or maybe they still are, I dunno.)? Does anyone notice when the Rainbow Coilition boycotts(other than the press?)?

For a boycott to work, it needs to be focused(independent bus companies, for an example) or it needs to be dependent on the group doing the boycotting (again, the bus companies). Boycotting a company that makes so many products that so many people use is bound to be ineffective.
posted by madajb at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2006

In what seems a new approach, various agents in some states now grabbing illegals. This in effect will cause alarm among the aliens as well as those employing them. There is as in this instance-- illegals who are sex offenders etc .

My approach: if you want to legalize aliens and feel they should be citizens, ok. Then let them in turn show they really want to be legal, citizens, and love the countryP: the price? Serve two years honorably in the military, where they will make more than the crap jobs they presently do, get clothing, food, and shelter. In short, they will be giving back as they get. How many illegals fall beteen ages 18--35? not sure but has to be many. Those not willing to serve to become citizens, send back to native lands...this would work for those anti-aliens (hey, they help us!) and for those pro-aliens: see how great they are? And we all get to stay out of the military while making the military stronger. TYhen we can use the national guard for the next hurricane season and return those guys to their homes.
posted by Postroad at 3:29 PM on April 24, 2006

Postroad : "Then let them in turn show they really want to be legal, citizens, and love the countryP: the price? Serve two years honorably in the military"

I thought the idea was for them to show that they want to be legal citizens, not that they want to be shot at. I can't think of any country in the world of which I'd want to be a citizen badly enough to allow someone to shoot at me as part of the naturalization exam.
posted by Bugbread at 3:32 PM on April 24, 2006

Postroad, your comment, frankly, smacks of a lot of ignorance when it comes to how the American economy works. First off, the military does offer citizenship to illegals who serve in the military--but only if they are KIA. I agree that this privilege should be extended to all who serve (although the parallels to Imperial Rome are striking and problematic).

Second, you seem to put up a wall between "good" contributions like military service and "bad" ones like landscaping, washing dishes, childcare, etc. Utter bullshit. The latter are critically important aspects of the economy--not as dramatic, certainly, but as others have pointed out, a major metropolis like Los Angeles would cease to function without the hard work of illegals.

My advice to you is to try and see beyond the obvious (and well intentioned) sacrifices of those in the military--a 60/hr a week job for less than minimum wage, doing things legal Americans consider to be beneath them, in constant fear of deporation, with no forum in which to address grievances (ever wonder what an illegal does if they get fucked over on a paycheck? The answer is, nothing) in the hopes of making a better life for a person and her family is its own form of struggle worthy of admiration. Dare I say, some would call it the motivating mythology behind much of the success of America as a country.

madajb, the threat of a boycott by members of the LGBT community has been quite effective with regards to Microsoft and some major American car companies in the last few years. I'm not willing to bet on it, but the latino/hispanic American community is much larger, and to my surprise, a lot more well organized that anyone expected.
posted by bardic at 3:54 PM on April 24, 2006

I'm just surprised at how many folks are surprised that the latino community is as big or as organized as it is.
posted by Bugbread at 4:14 PM on April 24, 2006

bardic, that wasn't a dig at you. I'm actually surprised, not internet-scornful-way-of-saying-you're-surprised-as-a-veiled-way-of-saying-someone's-an-idiot.
posted by Bugbread at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2006

The higher the barrier to earn citizenship of a country gets, the more egregious it gets that any damn fool and wastrel who is randomly born in that country gets full citizenship for free.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:27 PM on April 24, 2006

bardic -
Has that really affected MS's bottom-line?
I'm thinking probably not.

I'm guessing that any boycott by Hispanic groups will have a big media impact, and little economic impact.
posted by madajb at 4:35 PM on April 24, 2006

madajb, I don't think you understand what boycotts are about. The goal is to get an entity to make a policy change through the threat of economic loss, e.g., Rosa Parks didn't really care about the long-term fiscal future of Birmingham's public transportation system.
posted by bardic at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2006


I think madajb understands that. His/her point is that if a company makes a huge range of products, boycotting it doesn't present a threat of any significant economic loss. The bus boycott was effective because the bus companies relied on black passengers, and a black boycott of the buses would significantly affect their bottom line. With recent boycotts, there is plenty of media exposure, but companies are too large and diversified for the boycott to threaten their bottom line.
posted by Bugbread at 5:06 PM on April 24, 2006

Lighten up, Bardic. I had tongue mostly in cheek. But to be serious: there is a distinct difference between seerving one's country and working for su-minimum wage at some guy's palatial house. We don't need illegals to make L.A. a grand place. I know the illegals situation in NY, and the Chinese there (and the Irish, much less so) are not making NY a much nicer city.

As for jobs Americans won't take: nonsense. Explain who did the crop picking during the dustbowl days. Pay a decent wage and you will find workers. You disrespect (what you accuse me of) the American unemployed if you don't think they would work . No. They don't take jobs that have no benefits and pay below a decent wage. In fact, the minimum wage is no longer to be lived on! When was the last time the minimum wage was raised, do you know?
posted by Postroad at 5:15 PM on April 24, 2006

Funny how these companies spend millions on PR departments if their bottom line was never threatened.
posted by bardic at 5:16 PM on April 24, 2006

Postroad : "When was the last time the minimum wage was raised, do you know?"

Federally, 1997. However, individual states have raised them at various times since. Depends on the state.
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 PM on April 24, 2006

bardic : "Funny how these companies spend millions on PR departments if their bottom line was never threatened."

They've spent several millions on PR to combat boycotts?
posted by Bugbread at 5:19 PM on April 24, 2006

Postroad writes: I know the illegals situation in NY, and the Chinese there (and the Irish, much less so) are not making NY a much nicer city.

I never said that the job of illegals was to make any American city grand and shiny. Most of what they do is precisely the sort of stuff that we never notice, because it's grunt work. If your trash wasn't picked up for a month though, I think you'd realize what I'm getting at. If all of your favorite restaurants closed down permanently, you'd notice. If the house you wanted to live in was never completed, you'd notice.

As for me missing your tongue-in-cheekness, well, I've heard far more bigotted and inflammatory talk these days regarding illegals.

As for the 1930's/Dust Bowl Days, nice attempt at a straw-man. Certainly the suffering was comparable, but the situation was quite different. Crop prices plummetted, and it became cheaper to leave them in the soil than to actually pick them. Today, there's no lack of jobs--as you point out, it's a question of who's willing to take the minimum wage ones and in far too many cases, illegal, exploitative less-than-minimum wage jobs. Blame the real criminals--the contractors, corporations, business owners, and politicians who thrive on unfair labor practices. Deport all the illegals you want--as long as the demand (less payout in wages and payroll taxes and workplace safety requirements) remains unchecked, the supply (illegal immigrants) will take care of itself.

Minimum wage wast last raised in 1996, although some states, counties, and cities have their own rates. I agree that it's a national travesty, but a Republican-controlled congress will never raise it, and a Republican WH would probably veto it due to pressure from their corporate/business constituents. My "vision" on the issue is that a tide would raise all of us--bringing illegals into the system through a mandatory time-period and tax-paying quota, and treating them like human beings, would force all employers to realize that they have to give people enough pay and healthcare to live on, regardless of where they're from. Idealistic I know, but realize that "anti-illegal" laws are just another form of divide-and-conquer--keep unemployed Americans angry at their darker-skined cousins to the south so they don't pay attention to the fact that many businesses and corporations will fuck you over regardless of what language you speak or what type of food you eat.
posted by bardic at 5:36 PM on April 24, 2006

bugbread, don't be dense. I don't know if a hispanic boycott of Kimberly Clark would work, but my sense is that the potential damage to PR, which is related to a longer-term potential loss to profit, might work. In light of the recent protests across the nation, it has a better chance of working than I would have thought earlier in the year.
posted by bardic at 5:37 PM on April 24, 2006

bardic -
I know the object of a boycott and am participating in a few myself.
However, that does not change my fundamental belief that Kimberly-Clark is too diverse for a boycott to work.

"Don't ride the bus" is simple, direct and effective.

"Don't buy Kleenex, Scott, Viva, Cottonelle, Huggies, etc. etc." is not.

Sure, Kimberly-Clark will have to spend a couple of million to make new commercials featuring nice happy Hispanic couples buying diapers, but at the end of the day, a boycott that most people aren't going to hear about, and that half of the people that hear about it are going to forget about, isn't going to work.

bugbread - I'm a he. heh.
posted by madajb at 10:54 PM on April 24, 2006

Anything that harms Sensenbrenner has got to be good. He's the evil bastard that turned off mics on a Democratic-ran hearing over 9-11.
posted by Goofyy at 12:47 AM on April 25, 2006

Immigrants: soft, strong, disposable
posted by Smedleyman at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2006

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