Immigration Activists To Go Back On March

Oscar Avila, Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2006

Grass-roots organizers are planning another major immigration march in Chicago next week, hoping a third massive showing in the streets of the Loop will bring new momentum to stalled efforts to liberalize immigration laws.

Advocates said a march will kick off at noonWednesday at Union Park on the West Side, culminating in a rally at Federal Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn St.

Four months ago, tens of thousands of marchers followed that same path, a dramatic mobilization that brought demands for legalization of illegal immigrants to the forefront nationwide. Another rally on May 1 brought 400,000 people to the streets, police estimated, while other marches around the nation brought out hundreds of thousands more.

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At a news conference Thursday in downtown Chicago, Illinois immigrant advocates said they want to increase the pressure on Congress. The march’s organizers include many of the same churches, labor unions and immigrant clubs that helped plan the previous marches.

In recent weeks, some of the organizers’ rhetoric and positions have become more forceful. After expressing general support for immigrants in the first two marches, many organizers now say they want a plan that legalizes all immigrants, They say they will not accept a compromise.

Claudio Gaete, an organizer with the Coalition of African, Asian, Arab, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois–a participant in Wednesday’s march–compared recent raids on workplaces that employ illegal immigrants to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. In both cases, he said, the government targeted a specific ethnic group.

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Organizers also announced plans for an Aug. 5 march. It, too, will start at Union Park, but will continue for three days with a final destination about 40 miles away at the Batavia office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Jorge Mujica, a key organizer, said the August march will focus more on symbolism and less on numbers. He said the three-day trek is the typical time a Mexican immigrant spends crossing the desert into the U.S.

The Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center released a survey Thursday showing that the marches have mobilized many Hispanics. The survey found that 63 percent of respondents believe that the marches represent “the beginning of a new Hispanic/Latino social movement.”

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