On May 1st, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of American cities from coast to coast. In Chicago alone, an estimated 300,000 protesters joined in what organizers called the "Great American Boycott of 2006" or "A Day Without Immigrants," to protest proposed legislation aimed at enforcing our borders and to call for the legalization of millions of illegal aliens. Similar huge demonstrations materialized in Los Angeles and New York, and many smaller rallies and marches--ranging in size from hundreds of participants to tens of thousands--took place in dozens of American communities. The demonstrators--mostly illegal aliens, and largely Mexican--hoped to demonstrate their impact on the American economy by encouraging people to skip work and school and to boycott all economic activity for the day.
One of the boycott organizers, Nativo Lopez, of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), said this action would show that illegal aliens have the power "to stop the system." NEWSFLASH: the boycott did not stop the system; the system barely blinked. One thing the boycott and the attendant mass demonstrations appear to have done is to turn many more Americans against the cause espoused by the demonstrators. This was already apparent after the huge demonstrations of March and April.
According to a poll by Zogby International released on April 28, for instance, "Three in five adults--61%--said that the recent protests had made them less likely to be sympathetic toward undocumented workers." The poll found that "even among Hispanics, the impact of the protests was far from positive." It also found Hispanics evenly divided, with 46 percent saying they were more likely to be sympathetic and the same percentage saying they were less likely to be sympathetic. Significantly, nearly a third of these same Hispanics--31 percent--said they were "much less likely" to be sympathetic, as a result of the protests.
This divide among Hispanics--including both U.S. citizens and illegal aliens--increased with the May Day demonstrations. "There would be a backlash against all of the positive energy that was created," said Linda Aneola of the Office for Social Ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, which has supported amnesty for illegal aliens. "The message would be one that immigrants really don't want to be part of America, and that what they are really doing is hurting the U.S., and that would be hurting the movement."
A Zogby poll released just after the May 1 boycott seems to bear out those fears, showing that the demonstrations have heightened America's concerns about our borders and national security. While 37 percent of voters said the war in Iraq is one of the top two issues facing the nation, immigration tied with the war on terrorism for second place, with each of those issues cited as a top concern by 32 percent of voters.
Who's Calling the Shots?
To go by news accounts and commentary in the major media, it would seem that the series of mass demonstrations that began on March 25 and culminated on May 1 were spontaneous events, the impromptu outpourings of anger and frustration by mistreated and unappreciated "undocumented workers." However, anyone who has ever organized a church picnic or a carpool, let alone a rally or a speaking event, knows that it takes a great deal of planning and effort to get successful participation. Turning out and coordinating over a million people to march simultaneously in 75-100 cities, with participants carrying the same professionally pre-printed signs and banners (in Spanish and English), chanting the same slogans, and delivering the same scripted speeches, is a major organizational and logistical triumph.
It is worth asking, then, who is behind the planning and organizing of these events and what their objectives and agenda are. These mass mobilizations are unprecedented, in that the majority of …