2006 United States immigration reform protests: Wikis


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Thousands gather in favor of immigrants rights in Nashville, Tennessee on March 29, 2006

In 2006, millions of people, with at least 500,000 in Los Angeles alone participated in protests over a proposed reform to U.S. immigration policy. The protests began in response to proposed legislation known as H.R. 4437, which would raise penalties for Illegal immigration and classify illegal immigrants and anyone who helped them enter or remain in the US as felons. As part of the wider immigration debate, most of the protests not only sought a rejection of this bill, but also a comprehensive reform of the country's immigration laws that included a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.

The largest national turnout of protests occurred on April 10, 2006, in 102 cities across the country. Some of the largest demonstration was in Los Angeles with an estimated crowd of about 500,000,[1][2] 350,000-500,000 in Dallas[3] and around 300,000 in Chicago.[4] Most of the protests were peaceful and attracted considerable media attention, there was also controversy over anti-American symbolism at some of the protests. Additional protests took place on May Day and many protesters that day carried portraits of revolutionary icon Che Guevara alongside flags. Socialists and other left-wing organizations joined the protesters as well. The issue over illegal immigration is a hotly debated topic in the United States, in recent years this topic has become synonymous with immigration from Mexico in particular. Anti-immigration opposition movements have become more prevalent since the 2006 United States illegal immigration reform protest, the number of groups growing to more than 250 groups [5] . One group that has risen to prominence is the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, this group is a volunteer group focused on patrolling the US Mexico border, advocates building fences to prevent illegal immigration as well as other things.[5] The origins of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps are tied with another illegal immigration opposition group the Minuteman Project. Although these groups were initially connected they have since split into two distinct entities that pursue their own goals [5]. Although this organization is dedicated to restricting illegal immigration and is loosely tied with other advocacy groups, they do not have a structured pattern for opposition, nor do they share all the same goals [5]. Chris Simcox has gained fame from his affiliation with the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, his is the cofounder of the organization. Members of the MCDC engage in techniques such as lobbying to in the local sphere at courthouses, and protest [5]. Nearly all anti illegal-immigration groups are non-violent in nature; several groups pursue the goal of ending illegal immigration through a completely different method [5]. A varying form of movement activity can be seen through organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a “mainstream think tank” and CIS Center for Immigration Studies [5]. Federation for American Immigration Reform was formed in 1979; a prominent leader associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform is John Tanton, one of the organizations co-founders. Groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies try to use statistical analysis when protesting in front of congress in order to gain credibility for why the United States should cut down on all illegal immigration. A common misconception is that anti-illegal immigration movements are focused only on the immigration issue. Like many other movements the anti immigration movement is involved in several other political aspects [5].


Role of Spanish-language media

Spanish-language media outlets, in particular Univision, Telemundo, Azteca America and various Spanish-language radio stations across the country, in large part aided in mobilizing people for the protests. Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, a Spanish-language radio personality from Los Angeles, persuaded eleven of his counterparts from Spanish-language radio stations based in Los Angeles to also rally listeners to attend planned protests.[6][7][8]

Role of the Internet

Internet community sites containing personal blogs also played a significant role in helping to "get the word out" on the dates and locations for the marches and demonstration protests. Whereas Spanish language radio concentrated on the Spanish speaking audience only, the Internet catered to Mexican-Americans and Hispanic youths. MySpace in particular was seen as a significant source for attracting youth who speak English.[citation needed] Because of the Internet, the various marches and demonstrations which occurred around the nation attracted United States citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, undocumented migrants, immigrant advocate groups, Labor rights advocates, nonprofit organizations and churches. The Internet was directly responsible for mobilizing a large percentage of American youth.[citation needed]

Controversy and backlash over flag symbolism and protests

The initial protests caused much controversy after a large number of illegal aliens waved Mexican and Central American flags instead of American flags flown by numerous protesters. The issue of these flags was also repeated by media outlets and columnists.[9] One particular incident referred to involved a protest at Montebello High School in California, where a Mexican flag was raised on a flagpole over a United States flag flying in the distressed (or upside-down) position.[10]

Because of the controversy, organizers of the protests encouraged protesters to leave their Mexican flags at home, with Cardinal Roger Mahony telling Los Angeles protesters to not fly any flag other than the United States flag because, "...they do not help us get the legislation we need."[11] As a result of this controversy later protests featured fewer Mexican flags and more protesters carrying American flags.[12] This fact, though, did not end the controversy over the protests, with some commentators and bloggers also questioning the statements on signs held by some protesters, describing them as racist and anti-American.[13]

As part of the backlash over the protests and the controversy over the flag symbolism issue, a group calling themselves "Border Guardians" burned a Mexican flag in front of the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9, 2006.[14] The following day the group proceeded to burn two Mexican flags during protest in Tucson which was estimated to have had 15,000 participants. After the police seized a student who had thrown a water bottle at the "Border Guardians", they followed the police officers calling for them to let the student go. As the situation escalated violence broke out and 6 were arrested with dozens being pepper-sprayed. The next day the police arrested the leader of the Border Guardians, Roy Warden, for charges including assault and starting a fire in a public park.

In addition, California's Oceanside Unified School District banned flags and signs from its campuses after "Mexican flag-wavers clashed with U.S. flag-wavers."[9]


Citizens opposed to illegal immigration have also been active. The Washington Post recently reported that, in one U.S. town, a day labor center at which suspected illegal immigrants congregated was closed and its mayor and two aldermen were voted out of office as a result of immigration concerns.[15][16]

Membership in the Minuteman Project increased due in part to backlash from the protests.[17] On May 3, responding to the May 1 boycotts, the Minutemen embarked on a caravan across the United States in an effort to bring attention to the need for border enforcement. The caravan was expected to reach Washington D.C. on May 12.




  • March 10: 100,000 marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza in Chicago but organizers say that about 250,000- 500,000 actually marched.[citation needed]
  • March 23: 10,000-15,000 marched to Zeidler Park in Milwaukee.
  • March 24: 20,000 marched to Senator Jon Kyl's office in Phoenix.[18] Tens of thousands of workers participate in a work stoppage in Georgia.[19]
  • March 26: 7,000 people rallied at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.[4]
  • March 27: 50,000 marched to the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit.[citation needed]
  • March 29: 8,000-9,000 marched from The Coliseum to Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
  • March 30: Robert Pambello, the principal of Reagan High School in Houston, placed a Mexican flag below the American and Texan flags and was ordered to remove it. He later resigned from his position for apparently unrelated reasons.[20] In South West Houston, high school students from Robert E. Lee High, Bellaire High, Sam Houston High School (joining from Houston's Northside)and other middle schoolers joined together in a march that was taken to city hall.[21]
  • March 31:3,000 high school and middle school students in Las Vegas walk out of class to protest. Some college and community college students join them on their protest.[22]


  • April 1: Thousands rallied at the Oklahoma state capital in Oklahoma City.[citation needed]
  • April 1: 10,000 marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square in New York City.
  • April 6: Hundreds of Aurora, Illinois students left school to march downtown to protest.
  • April 8: Several hundred people rally at Chicano Park in San Diego.[23]
  • April 9: Demonstrations in several cities across the United States, including:
  • 350,000-500,000 marched to City Hall in Dallas.[citation needed]
  • 50,000 marched in San Diego from Balboa Park, through downtown to the County Administration Building.[24]
Students Of Jersey City's McNair Academic High School gather to protest the proposed H.R. 4437 at Liberty State Park after walking out of their school at 2:00pm on April 10, 2006.
  • 6,000 protested in Des Moines, Iowa at Nollen Plaza in support of comprehensive immigration reform.[25], April 9
  • April 10: Demonstrations were staged in many cities and towns across the United States;
  • Atlanta, Georgia, at least 50,000 people rallied both for and against amnesty.
  • Boston, Massachusetts, approximately 2,000 demonstrators march from Boston Common to Copley Square.[26]
  • Charleston, South Carolina, at least 4,000 people gathered and protested the inability of lawmakers to agree on legislation that would lead to citizenship.[27]
  • Fort Myers, Florida, an estimated 75,000 people took part in "The Great March" which affected traffic in nearby areas of the march. The stream of protesters was at least a mile long at times.[28]
  • Las Vegas, Nevada, a well organized march of approximately 3,000 people was held. Protesters marched two miles from Jaycee Park to the Federal Courthouse during the first day of the Clark Country Spring Break, waving Mexican and American flags alike. They protested in favor of amnesty.[citation needed]
  • New York City, between 70,000 and 125,000 people demonstrated in front of City Hall. Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer spoke at the rally. Neither called for amnesty, though many of the crowd's signs and chants did.[29]
  • Oakland, California, an estimated 10,000 people took part in the demonstration.[30]
  • Salt Lake City, Utah, a unity rally was held at the City-County Building; there were an estimated 15,000 protesters.[31]
  • San Antonio, Texas, an estimated 18,000 people marched from Milam Park to the Federal Building in downtown.[citation needed]
  • San Jose, California, an estimated 25,000 demonstrators marched several miles from King and Story to city hall. Highway access to US 101 and I-680 was closed, causing significant traffic backups.[32]
  • Seattle, Washington, between 15,000 and 25,000 marched to a rally at the federal building where speakers in support of the demonstrators, such as Mayor Greg Nickels and County Executive Ron Sims spoke. Just five thousand were expected.[33]
  • April 11: Several protests occurred in Nevada.
  • April 13: Students from several Woodburn, Oregon (a town with a large Hispanic community) schools marched out of class.[36]
  • April 19: Students from various Denver high schools and middle schools walked out of class and marched to the capitol.[37]
  • April 27: Approximately 200 volunteers and supporters built a 6 foot high, quarter mile section of barbed wire fencing along the Mexico and United States border to send a clear message to Americans and leaders in Washington regarding the lack of security at our borders.[38]
  • April 28: Nuestro Himno, a Spanish language rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, is played simultaneously on about 500 Spanish language radio stations across the country. President Bush denounced the effort saying the National Anthem should be sung in English[39]


A rally on May 1 in Chicago
  • May 1: The "Great American Boycott" takes place across the United States and at a few locations abroad.
    • An estimated 400,000 marched in Chicago, according to police, though organizers pegged the total at closer to 700,000[citation needed]
    • The boycott was said to have had "little economic impact" in Arizona
    • Modesto, California saw close to 10,000 people marching in the streets, possibly the largest assembly of people in the city's history. Major city streets were shut down as a direct result.[40]
    • Over 15,000 protesters were reported in Santa Barbara, California.[41]
    • Some supporters have hailed this as "the most important boycott since the days of the civil rights movement".[42]
    • Approximately 20,000 marched in the Bay Area of California.[43]
    • A California newspaper reported that an altercation took place between police and protesters.[44]
    • Local news estimates that 3,000+ people marched from Jaycee Park in Las Vegas, Nevada; some local businesses suffered but the majority of businesses felt no financial impact.[45]
    • According to the L.A. Observed, an altercation occurred between protestors and police at McArthur Park in Los Angeles.[46]
Illegal Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mexico border in Tijuana
    • Thousands of immigrants and their supporters did not go to work or school in Iowa[47] United for the Dignity and Safety of Immigrants (UDSI) (organizing group estimates)
  • May 2: The Minuteman Project says that 400 new members joined in April in response to the protests.[48]
  • May 3: In response to the pro-immigration reform boycott, the Minutemen started a two-vehicle caravan across the United States which reached Washington, D.C. on May 12.[17][49]
  • May 25: The United States Senate passes S. 2611 which includes a path to citizenship for up to 8.5 million illegal immigrants. The bill eventually failed and was never enacted.


H.R. 4437 (The Border Protection, Anti terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005) was passed by the United States House of Representatives on December 16, 2005 by a vote of 239 to 182. It is also known as the "Sensenbrenner Bill," for its sponsor in the House of Representatives, Jim Sensenbrenner. H.R. 4437 was seen by many as the catalyst for the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests.[citation needed]

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 previously gave "amnesty" to 2.7 million illegal aliens. Proponents said this 1986 amnesty would end America's illegal immigration problem.

The companion bill passed by the United States Senate is S. 2611, which never passed conference committee. The House Republican leadership, stated that it rejects S. 2611 wholly and will pass legislation that only addresses border security. The end of the 109th Congress marked the death of this bill.

Kennedy ruling

The USA Supreme Court on June 16, 2008, per ponente Justice Kennedy ruled (5-4) "that someone who is here illegally may withdraw his voluntarily agreement to depart and continue to try to get approval to remain in the United States." The lawsuit is about 2 seemingly contradictory provisions of immigration law. One prevents deportation by voluntary departure from the country. The other sectition allows immigrants who are here illegally but whose circumstances changed to build their case to immigration officials, and must remain in the US. In the case, Samson Dada, a Nigerian citizen, overstayed beyond the expiration of his tourist visa in 1998. Immigration authorities ordered him to leave the country as he agreed to leave voluntarily, to allow his legal re-entry than if he had been deported.[50][51]


The following organizations mobilized from hundreds (FAIR) to millions of people (Great American Boycott) around immigration reform in the United States during 2006.

Recruiting Methods

Typically anti-immigration movements focus on Grassroots recruiting tactics; the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and Minuteman Project use these methods to boost membership. After the 2006 immigration reform protest membership in anti-immigration movement participation increased by 600%.[5]

Cooperation between anti-immigration groups

Anti-immigration group often do not purse the same agenda in the same ways, however, they do form Coalition when there agendas match other anti-immigration movements.[5] One of the major joint efforts that these groups engage in access to mailing list for individuals who have donated money in the past to support the anti-immigration movement; Federation for American Immigration Reform and Minutemen Civil Defense Corps have shared list of mailers with one another in recent years.[5]

See also


  1. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11442705/
  2. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/03/28/immigration/index.html
  3. ^ http://www.nbc5i.com/news/8575955/detail.html
  4. ^ http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-immigcrowd02.html
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Larsen, Solana The Anti-Immigration Movement: From Shovels to Suits. NACLA news, 09 May 2007. Web. 9 Nov. 2009 http://news.nacla.org/2007/05/09/the-anti-immigration-movement-from-shovels-to-suits
  6. ^ Gillian Flaccus, The Boston Globe: "Spanish-language media credited on pro-immigrant rallies" March 29, 2006
  7. ^ Melissa Block, NPR-All Things Considered: "Spanish D.J. Organizes Immigration-Reform Protests" March 28, 2006
  8. ^ NPR-Day to Day: "Immigration Protests, Part 1: Spanish-Language Media" April 7, 2006
  9. ^ a b "The foreign flag rule" by Clarence Page, The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
  10. ^ Student punished for American flag incident by Tracy Garcia, Whittier Daily News, April 1, 2006, and "The American Flag Comes Second" by Michelle Malkin, posted March 29, 2006 01:15 AM. Both accessed April 14, 2006.
  11. ^ "Protesters work to change image" by Peter Prengaman, Associated Press, Long Beach Press-Telegram, April 11, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
  12. ^ "Immigrants Must Choose" by Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, April 14, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
  13. ^ "The Signs You Don't See..." by Michelle Malkin, posted April 11, 2006 12:14 PM, accessed April 14, 2006.
  14. ^ "Mexico says U.S. group burning Mexican flag is unacceptable" KVOA TV, Tucson, AZ, April 11, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
  15. ^ Labor Site Backlash Felt at Polls In Herndon - washingtonpost.com
  16. ^ Hill Impasse Spurs States to Tackle Illegal immigration - washingtonpost.com
  17. ^ a b http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/index.cfm?section_id=9&screen=news&news_id=49693
  18. ^ Yvonne Wingett and Daniel González, Immigrants protested in Valley, cities across U.S., The Arizona Republic, March 28, 2006
  19. ^ Thousands in Phoenix at Immigration Rally | NSHP - National Society for Hispanic Professionals
  20. ^ "Reagan HS principal resigns - Houstonist: Houston News, Food, Arts & Events". Archived from the original on 2009-08-11. http://www.webcitation.org/5ix33PB7U. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  21. ^ abc13.com: News from KTRK, around Houston and southeast Texas 3/30/06
  22. ^ "Immigration Law Protests March On". CBS. 2006-03-31. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/01/national/main1461815.shtml. 
  23. ^ sandiego.indymedia.org |Zapatista rally & march Chicano Park
  24. ^ 50,000 throng downtown in immigrant-rights march, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2006
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ Protestors Rally Against Immigration Changes - News Archive Story - WCVB Boston
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ NBC2.com, "Over 75,000 take part in protest march", April 12, 2006
  29. ^ Immigrants Rally in Scores of Cities for Legal Status - New York Times
  30. ^ Staff writer, "Oakland Adds Voice to Growing National Debate", Oakland Tribune, April 11, 2006.
  31. ^ Jennifer W. Sanchez, "Latinos set demonstrations dates", Salt Lake Tribune
  32. ^ Jessie Mangaliman, Joe Rodriguez and Sandra Gonzales, 25,000 march downtown, San Jose Mercury News
  33. ^ Thousands march for immigration rights
  34. ^ http://www.thewakeupamericafoundation.com/000waf-events.shtml
  35. ^ Carson students join nationwide protest of immigration reform | Nevada Appeal |Serving Carson City, Nevada
  36. ^ Derek Sciba (2006-04-13). "Woodburn students march over immigration". KATU. http://www.katu.com/stories/85048.html. 
  37. ^ "Views from the Capitol rally". Rocky Mountain News. 2006-04-20. http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4635510,00.html. 
  38. ^ Minutemen volunteers build fence to protest illegal immigration
  39. ^ Bush Says Anthem Should Be in English
  40. ^ Modesto Rising: 10,000 Protest, Unpermitted March Lasts Hours : Indybay
  41. ^ Santa Barbara News-Press
  42. ^ The Global Report
  43. ^ Massive Immigrant General Strike in US, Northern California : Indybay
  44. ^ SignOnSanDiego.com > News > North County - 200 officers clear streets in Vista after reported riot
  45. ^ Aftermath of the Mayday Immigration Walk-Out
  46. ^ LA Observed: Police fighting with protesters at MacArthur Park *
  47. ^ [3]
  48. ^ http://cbs5.com/topstories/local_story_122200429.html
  49. ^ News: New voice joins minuteman caravan - OCRegister.com
  50. ^ supremecourtus.gov, Dada vs. Mukasey, No 06-1181, June 16, 2008
  51. ^ ap.google.com, Top court eases rules for foreigners to try to stay in US

External links


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