Immigrants reclaimed their voice

Demonstrators march through downtown Chicago May 1, to shoe support for immigrant rights. Illegal immigrants and their allies gathered for marches, prayers and demonstrations on a planned national day of economic protest, boycotting work, school and shopping to show their importance to the country. Photo: AP/World Wide Photos

By Nativo Lopez and David Bacon
-Guest Columnists-
Over a million people filled the streets of Los Angeles May 1, with hundreds of thousands more in Chicago, New York and cities and towns throughout this country. Immigrants feel their backs are against the wall, and are coming out of their homes and workplaces to show it.

In part, their protests respond to HR 4437, the Sensenbrenner bill that proposes to eliminate all social space in which undocumented immigrants can work, survive and provide for their families. The protests do more than react to a particular Congressional agenda, however. They are the cumulative response to years of bashing and denigrating immigrants generally, and Mexican and Latinos in particular.

The protests seem spontaneous, but they come as a result of years of organizing, educating and agitating—activities that have given immigrants confidence and at least some organizations the credibility needed to mobilize direct mass action. This movement is the legacy of Bert Corona, immigrant rights pioneer and founder of many national Latino organizations. He trained thousands of immigrant activists, taught the value of political independence and believed that immigrants themselves must conduct the fight for immigrant rights. Most of the leaders of our movement today were students or disciples of Bert Corona. Together, these factors have produced a huge popular response, a fight-back as we’ve never seen before. More>>>

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