Immigrants on the March

In the weeks leading up to the March 21 demonstration for comprehensive immigration reform, organizers were careful to tamp down turnout expectations, stating only that "tens of thousands" would descend on Washington. It was just a few days before the event — with reports of countless buses heading toward the nation's capital — that they hinted that the crowd could reach 100,000.

So, on a beautiful spring day, with an estimated 200,000 people breaking into raucous chants of "¡Sí Se Puede!" on the National Mall, there was reason for optimism. "I walked and walked and walked," a man behind me excitedly told his wife and daughter in Spanish. "Finally I found the end of the crowd — way back there!" He pointed toward the Washington Monument and the general direction of his travels, but all his family could see was a solid wall of people, many of them teenagers proudly wearing Undocumented and Unafraid T-shirts.

Yet while the March for America was, as Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change told the crowd, "the biggest mobilization on any issue since Barack Obama was inaugurated president," it was also something of a disappointment. "My wife said it didn't even make the news," a friend told me as we traveled back to New York City that evening. "How is that possible?" It was possible, of course, because television cameras were glued to the negotiations in the House over the healthcare bill, certainly a momentous occasion. As a result, many Americans had no idea that nearly a quarter-million people — overwhelmingly Latino immigrants — had turned out to press for action...

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Tags: immigration, immigration reform, immigration rights movement, latino, latinos, movements, protest, protests, washington

    • Gabriel Thompson
    • Gabriel Thompson has worked as a journalist, community organizer, union researcher, and investigator of capital punishment cases involving undocumented Mexican immigrants. He is the author of three books: Working in the ShadowsThere’s No José Here, and Calling All Radicals. He has...

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