500,000 marched in Los Angeles, 100,000 in Chicago, 20,000 in Milwaukee, 40,000 in Washington D.C, a thousand in Trenton, NJ. They marched in Tucson, Phoenix, New York, and Portland, across the nation Hispanics took to the streets to add their voice to the immigration debate to demonstrate their opposition to the utterly unacceptable proposed revisions to Federal Immigration Laws.
By coincidence the marches coincided with the week long César Chávez celebration and followed the philosophy of Chávez for non-violent action, these marches were held without incident. The marchers walked peacefully and dignified, wearing white t-shirts to emphasize their peaceful intent and waving Mexican and American flags. Their message we are not criminals, but hard working human beings.
In December the House of Representatives passed their version of an immigration bill, HR 4437 that would turn 12 million undocumented workers into felons.
This week the full Senate took up the debate centered on a Bill passed by the Senate Judicial committee earlier in the week. The Senate version would allow for a more lenient immigration policy offering such proposals as guest workers, family unification, and educational opportunities. Once the Senate passes their version of an Immigration Bill the House Bill and the Senate Bill must be reconciled before going to the President for his signature.
For the immigrant community their voice had been absent from the debate and for the Mexican American community their voices had been muted, drowned out by the neo-cons in the conservative Republican Party. For migrant and Hispanic communities marching and protesting was the best and only way to raise their voices over the conservative clatter.
Of course the fact that the marchers were waving Mexican flags irritated the jingoistic anti-Mexican bashers as further proof that this reflected some sort of attempt to take-over California and the United States.
The following tidbit was taken this week from the weekly email blast from the Roger Hedgecock radio show which reflects this xenophobic fear from the right-wing Republican community: “The images a little disconcerting but on the ponder, what might one expect in a city that is now mostly Mexican. The gathering actually makes the case that way too many folks have gotten across our border and refuse to go home…
“Meanwhile the U.S. Senate debates. Gosh knows what these fools will do, likely weaken the laws we currently have on the books to protect America. We see half a million who want America annexed to Mexico, the lawmakers see voters who can’t speak the language and seek to create the government of their homeland (rule by mordida) in USA.”
The Mexican and Mexican American communities are well aware that the debate on immigration has been driven, not out of fear of terrorist attacks, but of a fear of the growing Mexican American community in the United States and the growing political and economy clout that this growth represents. If in fact the issue on immigration was on protecting our borders then why has the debate left out our northern border along Canada? We don’t we see a fence going up there, or Minutemen patrolling that border!
The Mexican and Hispanic communities has risen to answer the call and will join in on the debate for a fair Immigration Bill by protesting and marching. That was step one. Now the Hispanic community has to take the next step to reflect this growing power they now have to become politically involved, and they have to vote. Our students have to become educated and they too must become involved in the political process. They are the hope of the future!
The Hispanic community can come out and voice their opposition to this right wing rhetoric by voting, volunteering, and donating money to a more compassionate comprehensive immigration reform candidate. If we as a community don’t start voting for more responsive representation then all the marches and protesting in the world will not fundamentally change the way the political body address the needs of the Hispanic community!