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Low Turnout in May, High Hopes for November

New America Media, News Digest, Elena Shore Posted: May 02, 2008

Editors Note: The impact of immigration raids could be seen in the lower turnout at immigration marches on May Day this year, report Spanish language media. But hopes are still high for a spike in voter turnout in November reports Elena Shore, New America Media editor who monitors Spanish language media.

In Milwaukee an estimated 30,000 people marched for immigrant rights on May Day. But in Dallas peace officers and members of the press outnumbered the marchers at one point. Two hundred cities saw marches and protests to mark the third anniversary of the mega-marcha of 2006 but attendance varied wildly report Spanish-language media.

In Milwaukee the march was led by teenagers wearing white T-shirts with red letters saying Just Immigration Reform First 100 Days, hoping to ensure the next president elected and the U.S. Congress finally enact an immigration bill that would legalize undocumented immigrants. At the march, A Day without Latinos which was organized by Voces de las Fronteras, young people outnumbered the adults reports El Conquistador. Their sheer numbers has sent a strong message to public and elected officials that indeed they are part of this nation and tomorrow they will change the face of America through their vote, according to El Conquistador staff.

The motto of past years -- Today we march, tomorrow we vote -- carries a new urgency this year. With the presidential elections only six months away, and Hispanics now representing more than 15 percent of the population according to the U.S. Census, some organizations predict that as many as 10 million Latinos will be voting in November.

But recent raids across the country have stirred panic in some communities in what some activists see as a deliberate attempt to scare people away from the marches.

In downtown Dallas, Diario La Estrella reporter Jay Torres reports that no more than a dozen protesters had shown up by 5:30 pm, 90 minutes after the scheduled start time.

Manuel Rodela, vice president of the International Coalition for Mexicans Abroad blamed the recent worksite raids and deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for intimidating immigrants.

"Also," he adds, "the first of May fell in the middle of the week and people have to work."

Another Spanish language newspaper, Al Da, reports that when the march finally began in Dallas, only a little more than 100 protesters participated.

In Houston, Rumbo newspaper reports that only 200 marchers showed up for the rally.

Fear always exists, but the real fear is the terrorism of this government when immigration arrives at houses in the middle of the night, knocking on doors in search of the undocumented; that is a terror for American children that scars them for life," No Ramrez, president of Latin PowerWheels, an organization of undocumented persons with disabilities, told Rumbo.

In Florida, more than 300 undocumented immigrants were arrested in a two-week ICE operation in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, the highest number of arrests in a single operation since the agency was formed in 2003, reports the May 1 edition of El Nuevo Herald. Another 600 people in Miami are expected to be detained in the coming weeks, the Spanish-language daily reports.

This constant threat of raids, El Nuevo reports, has spread panic in the immigrant community and caused indignation among the community of immigrant rights activists.

Hundreds of protesters marched in Miami, carrying signs that read We are not criminals and Our dream, the American dream, reports the May 2 edition of El Nuevo Herald.

At a vigil in Miami, U.S. citizen children whose parents had been deported or detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released white doves into the air, a symbol of peace, respect and legalization that they are fighting for, Jos Lagos, president of Unidad Hondurea, told El Nuevo Herald.

Another group marched from Little Haiti to the offices of the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and a third demonstration will be held Saturday in Miami.

In Los Angeles, where MacArthur Park was the scene of police violence last year, the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinin prepared its readers by providing information on their First Amendment rights.

La Opinin published a front-page Q&A column on May 1 informing protesters of their rights, explaining what the First Amendment says about the right of assembly and what to do if the police order a crowd to disperse.

Among the protesters in Los Angeles were representatives of the nearly 200 people who have sued the city for police brutality during last years march in MacArthur Park, reports La Opinin.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with police and community leaders and "guaranteed that things would be under control, Angelina Corona, director of Hermandad Mexicana told Univision.com.
"They sent the message that everything would be okay, under control, and we sent the message to our people that we could protest like we always have: peacefully, respectfully.

In its May 1 editorial, La Opinin commended the positive actions taken by Chief William Bratton and the Los Angeles Police Department in the year following what they called the brutal police repression against peaceful pro-immigrant rights demonstrators on May 1, 2007 in MacArthur Park. The LAPD has re-trained its force to identify and separate violent members of a peaceful crowd tactics that the editorial notes were not enforced a year ago.

The Los Angeles Unified School District organized forums in schools to discuss immigration issues and prevent students from walking out of class. Last year, nearly 15,000 students walked out of school to join the marches, school authorities reported.

But students told La Opinin that that did not deter them from participating in the marches. Leonso Montiel called the raids "inhumane" to leave children without their parents, reports Carlos Avils in the May 1 edition of the newspaper.

In New York, the marches included speakers Al Sharpton and the wife of Sean Bell. Flor Crisstomo, who is seeking refuge in a Chicago church, and Elvira Arellano, the activist who was deported to Mexico also addressed the marchers via telephone reports Maricarmen Amado in Hoy Nueva York.

In Chicago, where two years ago some 400,000 demonstrators took to the streets, the turnout was down to 15,000. But activists said they werent bothered by the lower turnout this year.

Emma Lozano of Chicagos International May 1 Coalition told Univision.com that in addition to marching in the streets, we are in a permanent campaign to get people to vote in November, which she called the central point of this struggle.

In November millions will march to the polls, Lozano told Univision.com. You can be sure of that.

Additional reporting by Peter Micek.

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