About two dozen people stood on the edge of an overpass, near an onramp. They looked down on the 57 freeway, waving their big American flags to the drivers below. Occasionally, 18-wheeler trucks honked their horns. Other people passing by shouted insults.
Joseph O'Toole ignored those insults by flashing a smile. A retired aerospace worker from Claremont, he says he believes that too many immigrants are hurting American workers.According to him, now is simply not the right time for immigration reform.
"Maybe four years from now, five years from now… But not now," says O'Toole. "We've got 27 million unemployed. That's too many."
O'Toole found out about this protest from an email by Robin Hvidston, the director of We The People California's Crusader, a group based in Upland that supports stricter border enforcement. Its organizers have been rallying opponents of immigration reform for the past four years. Hvidston says it may seem as if the anti-immigration reform camp has grown smaller and weaker, but that's because the pro-immigration lobby is too powerful these days.
"You see us? We're common people," she says. "Common people across this nation are up against billions-from churches, corporations, the well-funded amnesty organizations. We're up against huge money."
Hvidston's group has only held a couple of rallies since the Senate took up the immigration debate this year. Other groups advocating for border security like The Minutemen Project, and some local Tea Party chapters are increasingly fractured, especially in states like California, where the majority of voters support reform. UC Irvine political science professor Louis Desipio, author of “Drawing New Lines in the Sand: Evaluating the Failure of Immigration Reforms from 2006 to the Beginning of the Obama Administration", calls these groups "populist": Good at rallying the masses, but not so much at influencing Washington.
"The real opposition to immigration reform both in 2006-2007 and then again today, are groups that are very effective at showing senators and members of the House from states that don't have large numbers of immigrants, that the constituents in their districts are opposed to immigration reform," he explains.
Desipio is referring to states like Alabama and Georgia, where recent laws have effectively targeted illegal immigration. California, he says, is largely immigrant- almost a third of Californians are foreign born. According to Desipio, the state's changing demographics mean anti immigration groups face an uphill challenge in rallying the masses in the future.
As for We The People California's Crusader, they will continue to hold more protests in the weeks and months to come.