How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Readers on the state of the immigrant rights movement, post-May Day

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr (Creative Commons)

At a May Day immigrant rights rally in Minneapolis, May 1, 2012

It's been nearly a week since May Day rallies took place in L.A. and throughout the country. This time, the immigrants rights marchers who have turned out for several years shared the stage with protesters from the Occupy movement, who organized their own events.

One of the constant themes since, as the May Day post-game analyses continue to roll out, has been the relatively low turnout and how it relates to the state of the immigrant rights movement. Shortly after the protests, one headline stated: “May Day Protests Show Weak Immigration Movement.”

That's up for debate, especially in an era of virtual activism and a burgeoning immigrant youth movement that has taken up social media as one of its main organizing tools. But it's undeniable that the immigrant rights movement has changed quite a bit since six years ago, when the promise of what seemed like imminent comprehensive immigration reform drew hundreds of thousands to march in the streets.

A post the other day titled "Do lower crowd counts at rallies equal a 'weak immigration movement?' " asked readers to share their thoughts on whether the smaller crowds that turn out for immigrant rights rallies these days are an adequate way to measure a broader movement. Here's what some shared.

Via Twitter, @kmontenegro wrote:

only the same way that 25% turnout for presidential elections means no democracy.

Beneath the post in Multi-American's comments section, eastlawriter (who posted as "The Herman Cains") wrote this mini-essay:
This is a difficult question to just ponder and much more to actually try to answer.

Back in 2006/2007, Congress was indeed much more likely to pass immigration reform. Perhaps today people are disillusioned with the current situation in D.C. and with recent laws like SB 1070 and its copycat pop-ups...people might also be afraid.

Here in Los Angeles, I know for sure that the police brutali- I mean the "unintentional incident" in May 2007 where police clashed with protesters in MacArthur Park certainly could have influenced conscious and active protesters from marching in the streets from immediate fear of another situation like that.

Regardless, the undocumented student/youth movement has taken off and it's awesome to see undocumented folks (first and foremost themselves) leading their efforts to changing the circumstances. The immigration has weakened in the sense of seeing people on May 1st, but many orgs/groups (especially immigrant youth) have conducted more actions and events to raise awareness than we have seen in recent years. Paz.


Additional thoughts, anyone? There's more context on how the immigrant rights movement has evolved in recent years here and here.
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