LatinaLista — Compared to three years ago when the first immigration marches were held, the Latino community has evolved into a more political savvy and networked group that finds itself on the cusp of making history all over again.
May 1, or â€œMay Day,â€ is a day the rest of the world celebrates as International Workerâ€™s Day or Labour Day. In this country, itâ€™s evolved to signify a day when people take to the streets to wave flags, carry banners, shout chants and show unified support for the rights of undocumented immigrants.
Remember May 1, 2006 when the throngs of immigrant rights supporters first clogged downtown streets of cities large and small?
At the time, people wondered if the same momentum would ever be replicated. It wasnâ€™t but this year promises to be different for a variety of reasons.
And because of that, it has some Latino community leaders debating the wisdom of tapping into this reenergized momentum.
According to these community leaders, theyâ€™re afraid that a show of force could damage potential support for the immigration reform bill when itâ€™s introduced in Congress. Theyâ€™re also afraid of triggering the same kind of political backlash that materialized after the 2006 marches, which served as the impetus to polarizing the country over the immigration issue.
Yet, what these community leaders donâ€™t recognize is that along with the political backlash of 2006, there were lessons learned â€” not the least of which is that the Latino community is more political savvy than three years ago.
May 1, 2009 is a day that marks the perfect alignment of circumstances: itâ€™s the end of President Obamaâ€™s first 100 days in office; itâ€™s a day that falls under an administration that pledges to address comprehensive immigration reform before the year is out and, this time around, there is more of a nationwide, organized effort to rally people to support immigration reform and create ways to extend the momentum beyond May 1.
The fact that this yearâ€™s marches falls at the end of Obamaâ€™s first 100 days in office is symbolically significant for the Latino community, given the amount of Hispanic support he received in the election.
To his credit, Obama recognizes that the majority of Latinos voted for him based on the belief he would advance humane immigration reform. Though heâ€™s only expressed his intention to address the issue this year, he did so within his first 100 days in office.
Also, the current introduction of the DREAM Act in Congress, even though it now seems stalled in committees, creates an added excitement that immigration reform is on the horizon. With two such hopeful signs, itâ€™s not hard to guess that more people, young and old, will enthusiastically take to the streets this year.
And heeding lessons learned in 2006, my guess is that the only flags flying at the marches will most probably be the red, white and blue.
In the three years since those first marches, there have been countless pro-migrant non-profits, websites, documentaries, songs and articles created to counter the harsh rhetoric targeting undocumented immigrants.
In preparation for May 1, websites have sprung up to try to coordinate immigration marches. From
A New Day for Immigration which tries to document where marches are happening across the country to the many local websites of churches, labor unions and social justice centers that are telling their visitors starting times and route information, the source for news about the immigration marches relies less on word-of-mouth, MySpace, Facebook and even Spanish-language media than it did in 2006.
With Asians, blacks, Jewish and Arab groups joining in the call for immigration reform, this yearâ€™s marches will showcase the diversity of immigration and illustrate that it is not just a â€œLatino issue.â€
And finally, there are efforts underway to engage people over a longer period of time. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is sponsoring a National Call-In for Immigration Reform from April 27 to May 1. During this time, NCLR is offering a downloadable action kit that tells people how to contact their congressmen.
The documentarians of Made in L.A. created a May Day Community Screening Campaign making the award-winning documentary available for community and house screenings. The filmmakers want to do their part in promoting immigration reform. The campaign, which includes a downloadable event planning kit at the website started April 15 and runs to May 31.
Thereâ€™s no doubt the momentum is building for May 1 and thereâ€™s no stopping it â€” until humane immigration reform is passed.