Emotions run high on both sides of the immigration debate. Both sides are attempting to show that the wider public opinion is behind them to put pressure on legislators to act in their interest. On May Day, May 1, there was a huge outburst of support for the pro-immigration reform side. Tens of thousands of immigration reform supporters took to the streets on Wednesday to show their support for comprehensive immigration reform.
As the members of Congress slowly attempt to grind out immigration reform legislation, the rallies serve as a powerful reminder that the legislation would concern living breathing people rather then statistics from a think tank report.
The rallies took place in dozens of cities across the United States, from Vermont to Arizona. They ranged in size from the dozens to the thousands. May Day rallies have become a recent event for pro-immigration reform supporters.
In 2006 incredibly large immigration reform rallies took place in response to bill in the House of Representative, HR 4437.
HR 4437 would have raised the penalties for undocumented immigration and classified undocumented immigrants and anyone who assisted them as felons.
The controversial bill had several waves of protests launched against it. On May Day, huge rallies took place, with over 400,000 marching in in Los Angeles and another 400,000 taking the streets of Chicago. The Senate did not pass a version of HR 4437, thus killing it in Congress.
This year instead of several large rallies organizers decided to focus on numerous smaller rallies across the United States to draw more local support for immigration reform.
Another aspect to the muted sizes of the year’s marches is that immigration reform group are also taking a focus on contacting individual members of Congress via email and social media. Such a targeting resembles the campaign waged by anti-immigration reform group in opposition to George W. Bush’s immigration reform effort. There conservative talk radio mobilized thousands of voters to call Congress, crashing the phone switchboard several times over the course of the debate. Immigration reform groups are maneuvering themselves to not get outflanked on this front again.
The bipartisian Gang of Eight immigration reform bill that was released earlier in April represents the next chance that immigration reform supporters have at passing legislation since the defeat of the last attempt under the Bush administration. One of the bill authors, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), spoke at one of the rallies saying, that this was, "the best chance we’ve had in 25 years to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington, D.C."
As congressional debate continues over immigration reform, these rallies serve as a powerful reminder that immigration reform will affect millions of people in the United States. As the bill continues its way through Congress do not expect both sides to grow quieter in the court of public opinion.