Pride and Division After Immigrant Protests

After a day in the spotlight, the nation's illegal immigrants receded to the shadows once again, leaving open to debate what they accomplished during their day of protest and where they go now to earn the rights they wish to acquire.

For the events' organizers, the day was a show of muscle.

That feeling of empowerment was echoed at the El Ranchito restaurant in Dallas, where one person told us the protest helped immigrants feel that "they can make a difference."

At a loan office in Chicago, another protestor told ABC News, "We have to tell other people that we are here and we have to find a good way to say it."

Protests Polarize Nation

But not all are cheering the action. After watching many of the protesters carry foreign flags, some people have criticized the demonstrators' choice.

"What we have here are illegal aliens and their supporters taking advantage of the compassion of the American people and demanding rights which they're not entitled to," said Sandra Gunn of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

"The immigration issue is polarizing the country and I'm afraid that these rallies are going to intensify the polarization," said University of Illinois economist Barry Chiswick.

The Phoenix-based Minuteman civil defense corps, which monitors the border, said it's seen increases in volunteers, in responses to fundraising efforts and visits to its Web site in the last few weeks.

And some members of Congress who have sought a middle ground in the debate over what to do about illegal immigration said they feared the rallies may have deepened divisions on the issue.

"I'm not sure it hurt, but I don't think it did anything to help," said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla. "I think, frankly, at this point what we don't need is for positions to get more fixed and more hardened."

The big question is whether concerns about immigration reform will drive Hispanic voters to the polls this November. Statistically, they are much less likely than whites or blacks to register, and less likely to vote even when they do register.

That will have to change if they are to bring their brethren out of the shadows.