Immigrant protests continue

More than 500,000 people marched in Los Angeles on March 25 to demand legalization for out-of-status immigrants and protest anti-immigrant legislation being considered by the Senate. Police estimated the crowd size using aerial photographs and other techniques, police commander Louis Gray Jr. said. (AP, March 26) The LA demonstration was the largest of a wave of protests sweeping cities across the US, starting with Feb. 14 rallies and strikes in Philadelphia and Georgetown, Delaware, and energized by a massive March 10 rally in Chicago. According to a March 25 article by New American Media, more than 50 demonstrations took place over the previous few weeks, including in Minneapolis, Knoxville, Seattle, St. Louis, Portland (OR), Staten Island (NY) and Grand Rapids (MI).

More than 50,000 people protested on March 25 in downtown Denver, Colorado, according to police. Some 5,000-7,000 people gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina. A rally in Dallas, Texas, drew 1,500. In Sacramento, California, more than 4,000 people took part in an annual march honoring the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez. (AP, March 26) According to an e-mail update from the Houston-based zine The Alarm, between 5,000 and 6,000 people marched in Houston on March 25 for the DREAM Act– legislation that would allow immigrant students to legalize their status. (The Alarm, March 29)

In New York on March 25, several hundred people gathered at a “dialogue with elected leaders” in Jackson Heights, Queens, organized by Immigrant Communities in Action. At least 75 people protested outside the federal building in Manhattan at a vigil organized by Families for Freedom, highlighting the plight of US citizen children affected by the deportation of parents. (New York Times, March 26; FFF, March 20) On March 26, 1,000 people marched in Upper Manhattan. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, March 27) Immigrants also marched in Columbus, Ohio, on March 26. (AP, March 27)

On March 27, several thousand demonstrators gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, DC, joined by 100 religious leaders who denounced a House provision that would make it a crime to give aid to illegal immigrants. (NYT, March 28; San Jose Mercury News, March 27)

On March 27 in San Francisco, as many as 5,000 demonstrators marched to the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The march marked the culmination of a week-long hunger strike. (David Bacon e-mail, March 27; NYT, March 28) As many as 2,500 immigrants from a broad array of backgrounds rallied on Boston Common. (Boston Globe, March 28) About 4,000 people turned out for a rally in Detroit; business owners of Latin American descent closed their shops in support of the protest. (NYT, March 28)

About 200 students rallied in front of the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey, on March 30 to urge state and federal lawmakers to consider bills that would allow undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates. (Ocean County Observer, March 31; AP, March 30)

On March 31, the birthday of Cesar Chavez, hundreds of students, farmworkers and supporters marched through the streets of El Paso, Texas, to support immigrant rights and pay homage to the farmworker leader, who died in April 1993. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 1)

On April 1 in New York City, more than 10,000 people marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to demand legalization and protest anti-immigrant legislation. The march ended with a rally at Manhattan’s federal building. (AP, March 1)

In Costa Mesa, California, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, some 1,500 people turned out in the wind and rain on April 1 to support immigrant rights. The mostly young and Latino crowd marched around city hall, waving US and Mexican flags. (MSNBC, April 1) Last year Costa Mesa’s City Council approved a plan to give local police authority to enforce immigration law. Federal officials have not yet decided whether to accept the city’s proposal. (AP, April 1)

Labor, immigrant and civil rights and religious groups are organizing for a National Day of Action on April 10. (AP, March 26)

Student Walkouts Spread
In Los Angeles on March 27–the Monday on which California celebrates Cesar Chavez day, but which is not a school holiday–as many as 36,000 students from 25 Los Angeles County schools walked out of class to protest anti-immigrant measures being debated in the Senate and demand legalization for immigrants. Officials at Huntington Park High School locked the gates after classes started to prevent walkouts, but students climbed over a chain-link fence and joined the march. More than 1,000 students encircled the Los Angeles City Hall, and a group of six met with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his office. Villaraigosa then stepped outside and addressed the crowd of students, telling him he supported their goals but urging them to return to class.

About 300 students and other protesters took over several lanes of a freeway in downtown Los Angeles. The demonstrators walked about a mile before they were escorted off, the Highway Patrol said. (AP, March 27, 28; Dallas Morning News, March 28; NYT, March 28)

The March 27 student walkouts quickly spread to San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura counties. In San Diego County, two dozen protesters were arrested in Escondido after refusing orders from police to disperse. In Riverside, seven people were arrested across town after scuffles with riot police, authorities said. (LAT, March 28) Other student protests were reported in Fresno, Oakland and Watsonville, California. (AP, March 28)

An estimated 400 students walked out of high schools in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 27 and marched to the Capitol to support immigrant rights. (AP, March 28) As many as 4,000 students walked out of high schools in the Dallas, Texas area on Mar. 27 to demonstrate at a park and at Dallas City Hall. (DMN, March 28)

Hundreds of students walked out of class on March 27 and 28 in Houston, San Diego, Denver, Las Vegas, Detroit and in northern Virginia. (DMN, March 28; AP, March 29; Washington Post, March 29; Rocky Mountain News, March 29)

Students from a dozen North Texas school districts walked out of class on March 28, and several hundred students stormed the lobby of Dallas City Hall and disrupted a council meeting. Dallas School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa warned students that further protests could lead to in-school suspensions, parent conferences or even truancy arrests. (DMN, March 28)

On March 28, thousands of high school and some middle school students walked out of class in Phoenix and its suburbs. By midday, Phoenix police estimated 2,000 students had gathered at the Capitol. (Arizona Republic, March 29) Nearly 800 high school students staged demonstrations in Tucson, Arizona on March 29. About 500 students at Sunnyside High in Tucson began a three-mile march about a half-hour before dismissal time. The principal and staff helped organize the action. (Arizona Daily Star, March 30) At least 1,150 students from 18 Tucson area schools– including elementary and middle schools–walked out of class on March 30 and marched through the streets. (Arizona Daily Star, March 31)

Some 6,000 students walked out again on March 28 in the Los Angeles School District. (El Barlovento, March 28) The walkouts slowed in Los Angeles on March 29, but continued elsewhere in California. In Kern County, California, about 3,000 students walked out. About 1,800 students took to the streets in and around Bakersfield. In nearby Arvin, 1,000 high school students marched to the town’s city hall. At Oceanside High in San Diego County, California, some students defied a school lockdown and tried to leave for a protest. Police arrived and sprayed mace at students to keep them from climbing a fence. A number of students were detained. The Oceanside Unified School District decided to close middle and high schools for the rest of the week. (LAT, March 30)

In Yakima, Washington, 660 students at Davis high school and dozens of others at Eisenhower high school walked out on March 27. On March 29, Davis administrators at decided to punish the 660 students who walked out by suspending them. Eisenhower students were not punished. (E-mail message from Yakima resident Maria Cuevas, March 30) On March 30, police arrested 26 students who walked out of classes in the Houston Independent School District for curfew violations. Another 33 students from Dowling Middle School and 34 from Madison High School got truancy citations the same day. (Houston Chronicle, March 31) About 700 high school students walked out on March 29 in El Paso, Texas, and marched for several miles. On March 30, more than 2,000 El Paso area students skipped out of class and marched through the streets all day. (El Paso Times, March 30, 31) Students also walked out of class in Austin, and again in Dallas. (AP, March 30)

Demonstrations among high schoolers and middle schoolers spread on March 30 in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Ignoring threats of disciplinary action from school administrators, 1,500 students walked out of class or skipped school in Northern Virginia and about 300 students did the same in Kensington, Maryland, to march for immigrant rights. (Washington Post, March 31)

In Los Angeles on March 31, more than 100 students rallied again at City Hall. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 1) Some 2,000 students demonstrated in San Diego and another 1,000 did so in Bakersfield. In Las Vegas, Nevada, some 4,000 students walked out of classes at 22 schools and met in the center of the city. More than 1,000 walked out again in Tucson and marched through the city, and the walkouts also continued in Maryland and Virginia. (LJ, April 1)

Senate Committee Moves on Bill
During debate on immigration reform on March 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-5 to approve an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) under which out-of-status immigrants in the US could stay for six years if they remain employed, and apply for permanent residency after six years. The committee also accepted amendments incorporating the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legalization for students, and a modified version of the AgJOBS bill, which would allow farmworkers to legalize their status. The committee voted 11-6 to approve an amendment sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) which would create a “guest worker” program to admit up to 400,000 low-skilled foreign workers a year. The committee also voted to nearly double the number of border patrol agents, calling for 12,000 more over the next five years, to bring the force to 23,000. The final bill, which passed the committee on a 12-5 vote, did not include provisions that would make unauthorized presence in the US a felony or allow the prosecution of church and charitable groups for providing aid to immigrants. (Immigration Forum Update and Action Alert, March 29; SJMN, March 27; NYT, March 28)

The Senate began discussing immigration reform on March 29. Debate will focus on working out conflicts between the bill passed by the committee and an enforcement-only measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) which resembles HR 4437, passed by the House last December. (Los Angeles Times, March 30)

From Immigration News Briefs, April 2

See our last post on the immigrants’ rights struggle.