April 9, 2006 -- Immigrant-rights groups are organizing marches for Monday in 93 cities, and expect hundreds of thousands of people to hit the streets for the "April 10 National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice."
Organizers expect 200,000 people to attend the Washington D.C. march alone and 100,000 to march in Phoenix.
Among the marchers will be Lalo Nunez of Arizona. He has baked bread at My Florist Café in Phoenix for six years. The café employs about 75 people and the boss, David Lacy, says he's given his workers permission to attend the march, no questions asked.
"I'm like so many employers: I think the Hispanic workers have gotten a particularly raw deal," said Lacy. "And we want to support them."
Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of massive immigration-rights rallies. On March 25, 500,000 demonstrators poured into the streets of Los Angeles and marched on City Hall to voice their opposition to a House of Representatives bill that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or to help an illegal immigrant.
The protests may be affecting employers everywhere. In Chicago, Tyson Foods, the poultry giant, released a statement saying it planned to reduce production at its plants on Monday in part because of the "immigrant rally." A later statement said the first release was mistaken and the reduced production was due to "market conditions."
Stalled in the Senate
Sens. Ted Kennedy D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have tried to forge a compromise, but the bill faltered in the Senate last week due to partisan bickering. The bill is scheduled to be taken up again by the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter R-Pa., has vowed to hold hearings when the Senate reconvenes after a two-week recess.
The immigrant population is organizing -- especially though Spanish speaking radio -- knowing that whether politicians like it or not, they have considerable influence.
"Today we march, tomorrow we vote," said Elias Bermudez, president of Immigrants without Borders. "We are telling the politicians in the state of Arizona, the most anti-immigration state, and Congress of the U.S., that we are going to become active."
The immigrant marchers have taken heat over the past few weeks for carrying flags from their native lands when they marched. This time around they are stockpiling American flags.
The marchers are also using text messages and e-mails to alert participants of their activities. The nationwide march even has its own Website. In New York, one local service employee union paid for radio ads urging all listeners to head to City Hall. In Dallas, march organizers are expecting a crowd 20,000 strong, but police are preparing for 200,000.
"People are waking up and saying that this is not right and enough is enough, and we're not going to stand by and just watch, we're going to take action," said Jamie Contreras chairman of National Capital Immigrant Coalition.