Organizers of the Los Angeles pro-immigration march that drew half a million people and attracted international attention in March have plans for more street demonstrations in September to urge Congress to pass an immigration reform bill.
Similar marches were organized in Chicago this month, drawing 10,000 protesters. With pressure mounting on both sides of the debate, immigration reform could once again come to center stage.
‘‘We are out there pushing for better and real immigration reform. … People are out there waiting, they want to march,’’ said Javier Rodriguez, an organizer with the March 25 Coalition.
Rodriguez said a Labor Day weekend march would follow the same route as the pro-immigrant march downtown on March 25, and like that march, organizers would rely on word-of-mouth and media to spread details. They are calling for full amnesty for immigrants.
Another march in the state is planned for that weekend in Wilmington by the newly formed Liberty and Justice for Immigrants Coalition composed of Teamsters, Hermandad Mexicana and the Mexican American Political Association.
Organizers of the protests that swept the country this spring credit the images of millions of immigrants and their sympathizers taking to the street for stalling immigration reform in Congress.
But other observers say more marches could create even further division between both sides of the red-hot immigration debate.
‘‘All it does is solidify the people that are for them and those that are against them; it’s unclear how it impacts people on the fence,’’ said Ricardo Ramirez, an assistant professor of political science at University of Southern California.
‘‘The experience is that these marches have backfired,’’ said Ira Melhman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group advocating tighter border controls. ‘‘The American public look at these and they are outraged. There are millions of people breaking the law and they are being rewarded for it.’’
Did the May 1 pro-immigrant protests change anything? Not for the good, that’s for sure.
Among the march organizers were members in good standing of the extremist left, like A.N.S.W.E.R. and the Korea Truth Commission, which supports Kim Jong Il’s insane Stalinist regime. Street gangs such as the Latin Kings got involved, too.
Moderate organizers should have either kicked the radicals out or called off the march altogether.
They did not. So they ended up getting swamped. In the mainstream media and the blogosphere, pictures of immigrants waving U.S. flags competed for public attention with pictures of radicals flying upside-down U.S. flags—and one does not have to be an expert in public opinion to know which one had more dramatic effect.
The actual rationale for the marches still makes sense: Some sort of earned legalization is the only moral and practical way out of the illegal immigration mess. But the organizers who wanted marchers to say only that—without carrying “Go back to Europe” signs—have been less than politically effective, to put it charitably.
Which is why it is hard to fathom what people were thinking in a poll of Latinos released recently by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said the marches signaled “the beginning of a new Hispanic/Latino social movement that will go on for a long time.” The response was pretty much the same regardless of income, education, ability to speak English or nation of birth, Pew said. That means acculturated U.S.-born Hispanics as well as conservative Cubans agreed. Only self-described Hispanic Republicans were slightly less sanguine, and even 52 percent of them said a new political movement was born with the marches.
Even more cluelessly, 52 percent thought the marches had a positive effect “on the way the rest of the American public thinks about illegal or undocumented immigrants.”
Who, exactly, thought better of President Bush’s legalization plan after the marches? Even moderates backed off after seeing one too many Che T-shirts. At least English-dominant Hispanics are more aware of the protest’s impact on the American public. Only 32 percent believed the marches had a positive impact, compared with 64 percent who are Spanish-dominant.
The respondents were right about one other thing, though: 54 percent said the debate over immigration policy has made Latino discrimination more of a problem.
It’s getting to be time for the House to end its fake hearings, pass Bush’s proposal and solve once and for all the problem of illegal immigration.