How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Beyond May Day and marches, an evolving immigrant rights movement

Photo by jenlund70/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The crowd at Olympic and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2008

As an immigrant rights marchers wind their way through downtown Los Angeles this afternoon in one of a series of rallies tied to May Day in L.A. and throughout the country, today marks the sixth anniversary of a historic event that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the city's streets.

That massive demonstration in 2006 took place at a time when hopes were high among immigrant rights activists that broad reforms to the nation's immigration system were imminent. Resistance to enforcement-based federal measures (at the time, the ill-fated HR 4437) had spread, while the talk coming out of Congress during the Bush administration suggested bipartisan support not only for a guest worker program, but for earned legalization.

In Los Angeles and throughout the country that spring, rallies calling for immigration reform drew record crowds. On May 1, traditionally known as International Workers’ Day and celebrated as a “labor day” holiday in some parts of the world, immigrant rights organizers wishing to point out the connection between immigrant workers and the national economy organized what was called the “Great American Boycott." The goal was for people to abstain from buying or selling, working or even attending school, anything that could demonstrate the power of immigrants. In Los Angeles alone that day, two related marches drew upwards of 650,000 participants.


Immigration, deportations on Occupy L.A.'s list of grievances

Photo by DB's Travels/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A sign at the Occupy Los Angeles camp, October 2011

As Occupy L.A. protesters prepared last week to fight the city's planned eviction of their camp outside City Hall - still on hold as they take the eviction fight to court - a list of demands drafted by the protesters solidified their sympathy for the immigrant rights movement.

A few days ago, the Los Angeles protesters posted a list of "grievances not addressed" that ranged from a moratorium on foreclosures to seeking a better public transit system to student debt relief, and this request:

Los Angeles to be declared a sanctuary city for the undocumented, deportations to be discontinued and cooperation with immigration authorities be ended – including the turning in of arrestees’ names to immigration authorities.

It's a tall order in Los Angeles County, which has long had a partnership