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500,000 Protest Immigration Reform in Los Angeles

by Pamela Leavey

AFP/Getty Images/J. Emilio Flores

Hundreds of thousands marched the streets of downtown Los Angeles today in protest of the proposed immigration reform. MSNBC reports that LAPD “told NBC News that an estimated 500,000 protesters clogged the streets in front of Los Angeles city hall to protest a proposed law they see as punitive to undocumented workers.” There were no reported arrests or injuries. The WaPo and other sources at this time are reporting smaller crowds of up to 100,000.

Congress is considering bills that would make it a felony to be illegally in the United States, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and erect fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border. The proposals have angered many Hispanics, a key voting bloc both parties are courting.

Phil McCarten/Reuters - cropped

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood on a wall outside of city hall to address the crowd during the pro-immigrant march. The protesters, marched with their families and many were wearing “white shirts symbolizing peace.” They came from all over Los Angeles County and as far away as Riverside County.

They thronged the steps of City Hall, perched in trees and sat atop bus kiosks, chanting “Mexico!” “U.S.A.!” and “Si se puede,” an old Mexican-American civil rights shout that means “Yes, we can.”

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

In his weekly radio address today, Bush said, “As we debate the immigration issue, we must remember there are hardworking individuals, doing jobs that Americans will not do, who are contributing to the economic vitality of our country.”

On Monday, Bush will attend a Naturalization Ceremony where, he said in his radio address he will, “discuss my vision for comprehensive immigration reform that will secure our borders, improve enforcement of our immigration laws, and uphold our values.”

The San Jose Mercury News offered a quick recap of the various proposals on immigration reform:

REFORM PROPOSALS

Illegal immigration is emerging as a top issue in the 2006 congressional election campaigns. Starting Monday, the U.S. Senate will take up an assortment of immigration-reform proposals.

— President Bush wants a reform package that includes increased border enforcement and a `guest worker’ program that allows undocumented immigrants to get work permits for up to six years.

— The U.S. House passed a bill last year that toughens enforcement, has no guest-worker provision, and criminalizes illegal immigrants and individuals or agencies who assist them.

— Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is trying to broker a compromise among his Senate colleagues that would include both tougher enforcement and a guest-worker provision.

— Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are sponsoring a bill that would allow guest workers to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

— Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate majority leader, promises to introduce his own bill with harsher enforcement than Specter’s proposal, and no guest-worker plan.

There’s more information on the Kennedy-McCain “Secure America Act” here. And TalkLeft says, H.R. 4437 is “A Bad, Bad Border Bill.”

Bush is rejecting the notion of an amnesty plan saying:

I believe that granting amnesty would be unfair, because it would allow those who break the law to jump ahead of people who play by the rules and wait in the citizenship line.”

The issue promises to be a wedge issue for the Republican party, who seek to court the growing Latino vote.

UPDATE: The LA Times has coverage of the rally, estimated to be “one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.” The LA Times has photos here.

UPDATE 2: Max Blumenthal says, “Sensenbrenner Awakens A Sleeping Giant.”

In passing HR 4437 and whatever draconian and utterly counter-productive bill emerges from the Senate, the congressional Republicans have become their party’s worst enemy.

24 Responses to “500,000 Protest Immigration Reform in Los Angeles”

  1. Zombies of Hate

    It is unbelievable that while we spend billions of dollars to prop up a theocratic and corrupt goverment thousands of miles away in Iraq (as an excuse to occupy the Middle East) that right now here in our own back yard human skeletons lay in the desert unfound as our illustrious politicians get their campaign moneys from the very corporations that caused these skeletons to be there in the first place.

    I blame the illegal (but not immoral)immigrants no more for coming to this great nation than I would blame first grade children for becoming addicted to Heroin that a drug dealer (who stands across the street from their school)methodically sells to them every day.
    The Republicans and some Democrats who are for this present immigration bill have become that drug dealer while they themselves have also become addicted to the money from corporations and the hate that can get them their votes.

    They may argue from a legal standpoint, that they are only for enforcing the rule of law but they are not arguing from a moral one. They are acting immorally. And, Just as Martin Luther King broke “the law of men” to uphold “the much higher law of humanity for Mankind”
    These poor illegal immigrants break “the law” but do not break the laws of humanity. Everyday, that this immigration problem is held up and not solved while people are dying in the desert our leaders must know that indirectly they are violating the laws of humanity.

    And now, we see, most despicably some politicians such as John Shadegg and Jon Kyl pimping their drug of hate, fomenting the building anger between Anglo and Hispanic peoples in our beautiful country. Will it bother them once the race riots start and the killing begins? I pray to the Almighty that it does because if race riots and killings start then the evil Genie will be out of the bottle and who knows when and if it will ever be able to be put back in.

    Like the Serbian, Croatian and African leaders of the last decade who used hate to begin their murderous ethnic cleansing some of our political leaders will become Nationalist leaders, who while provoking anger will have their egos stoked as they are propped up by the very people that they evinced that anger within, the very people that they turned into Zombies of hate.

    Don’t go after these immigrant children of GOD who have only come to our great country with no malice in their hearts and only to feed their families and find a better life. Go after the politicians who like drug dealers are addicting some of our fellow Americans to the wonderful sensation of hate in order to get themselves more votes.

    Remember we can have a blood bath and a witch hunt in trying to extract these 11 million illegal (but not immoral) immigrants and put on a shameful show on for the world (as we lecture other countries about human rights)or we can show the world that we Americans will solve this serious immigration problem on our own continent with the humanity and magnanimity that our forefathers would be proud of.

    America was the humane and civilized nation that could solve serious problems such as this immigration dilemma and once we shall prove that we still are that great nation, that “great experiment” that can solve these dilemmas of mankind.
    Fortunately, we the people of America are still humane and civilized as a nation because we are America.

    We must show the world that Bush and his Neo-Cons no longer speak for us, for they are trying to change America with their race baiting by appealing to the hate in our hearts, not only is this unscrupulous and immoral it is UNAMERICAN.

    We shall retake our nation one mind, one heart at a time and give it back to the principles that were outlined in the Declaration of Independence. That all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

    Sincerely,
    Leonard Clark
    The Damned Liberal
    Desert Storm/ OIF III VET
    and
    Candidate for the U.S. Senate
    in Arizona on March 29th, 2006

  2. […] 00 to nearly 500,000 descended upon L.A. The Democratic Daily Blog talks about some of the proposals on the table. It amazes me to see the number of Mexican flags for something that some try to […]

  3. Leonard,
    Lived in Phoenix for nearly 30 years. Am in Grand Rapids, MI now

    I believe you were the brave soul who besides serving our country in Iraq, was busted for running a blog that told the true story of what goes on there.

    i assume you will be running against Kyl – who is violating his own self-imposed term limits and Jim Pederson – the former Dem party chair and who can be best described as a loyal party hack.

    Good luck in your campaign.

  4. Leonard,
    I am sure you have lots of advisors so here is more advice…

    If I were going to run for office, two people who are at the top of my discussion list are:
    Alfredo Gutierrrez was the ranking Democrat in the Az Senate for years before retiring and is a good friend to all progressive Democrats. He was one of the leaders in yesterday’s Phoenix march.

    Jon O. Flatten is the former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (my former church)and head of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. I saw Jon before leaving AZ at a raise-the-minimum wage meeting with John Edwards. He is the leader of a lot of progressive Christians.

  5. There were similar protests across the U.S.

    I wonder, does everyone here support those other protests, like the one in Georgia?

    You know, the one that was organized by a former Mexican Consul General?

  6. There was a time when the left cared about the working poor in this country. Make no mistake, I hate George Bush more than anyone. I really hate him. But I also care most about the working poor in this country. They are my heroes. There is honor among them. Every day I advocate on their behalf.

    Illegal immigration is killing the working poor in this country. They can’t compete. Take construction. I know many working poor who would love to work in construction. But they cannot compete with the illegal immigrant willing to work for less and under the table.

    What the hell happened to the left in this country?

  7. From Today’s Arizona Republic…
    Time for integrity on immigration
    Mar. 26, 2006 12:00 AM

    It’s showdown week on immigration.

    Senators can do their job. Or they can play this for personal political gain.
    Their choice.
    But it’s the American people who will suffer the consequences if they act selfishly.

    A promising comprehensive reform bill is up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s an amalgam by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., of several bills, including two by Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl.

    Majority Leader Bill Frist says he’ll bring his own enforcement-only bill to the Senate floor if the committee doesn’t vote Specter’s bill out by Monday, or if the committee vote doesn’t include a majority of GOP supporters.

    That would be a mistake because Specter’s compromise deserves to be debated.

    Frist’s bill, like the House bill it mimics, is worse than nothing. It would let lawmakers crow about passing a bill while the real problem continued to fester. Frist, a presidential hopeful, will prove himself quite un-presidential if he puts his desire to woo his party’s anti-immigration wing ahead of America’s well-being.

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid vows to filibuster Frist’s bill if it comes to the floor, which would be a courageous move given the national clamoring for Congress to do something.

    For years, The Arizona Republic has been pounding the drum for Congress to “do something” about illegal immigration.

    We called for action as increasing numbers of migrants died each summer, turning Arizona’s beautiful southern deserts into a place of agonizing death by dehydration.

    We called for action before the Minutemen began using our national pain over immigration as a way to hype vigilantism.

    We called for action as the numbers of undocumented immigrants living in this country climbed to an estimated 12 million.

    We called for action as a problem that was perceived as a local issue became a crisis that Washington could no longer ignore.

    We called for action as violence increased along the border and smugglers became so bold they had a shootout on Interstate 10.

    We called for action as archaeological and cultural sites were trampled under the feet of migrants headed north, and sensitive environmental land was trashed.

    But we never called for just any action.

    We never asked Congress to play politics with an issue that touches our national values, economy, identity and ideals.

    Never.

    What the nation needs now is what it has needed for a long, long time: Comprehensive immigration reform that must include a guest-worker program.

    It must provide a path, albeit a long and winding one, to eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here.

    And it must impose a valid employee verification system that’s accurate enough to allow tough sanctions against employers who continue to hire illegal immigrants.

    It’s showdown week in Congress.

    Those who would demagogue immigration for political gain will prove their selfishness.

    Those who have the best interests of this country at heart will show their integrity.

  8. mkultra has a point that seems to be missed in the debate among the left,center,right and politicans.

    What about those working poor and lower middle class people who are loosing their jobs to cheap foreign labor across the board?

    Although many illiegals are looking for a better life and are willing to work for it the same could be said for the working poor and middle classes of americans. It is about impossible for AMericans to live on 5.15 an hour wage. A family of 4 can’t sustain a decent life on minium wage in this country although many are trying.

    1. We must have stronger border enforcement. both north and south borders in this country are to pourous and to easy for terrorist and other criminals (gangs & drug dealers) to slip in to the country.
    2. Corporations and other business are getting rich off the illegal immigrants because the immigrants have no rights can’t object to bad treatment they may recive.
    3. Americans like cheap food and products and though many won’t admit it they want to have cheaper goods made by cheaper labor.
    4. Policiticians need to grow some spine and do what is right for the country and if that means pissing off some voters on all sides then so be it.
    5. There some genuine people out there that just because they are for more border control doesn’t make them racist.
    6.Our national infastructure is failing and can’t continue to support a large influx of undocumented people.

    Lets also not forget the border agents who go out and do their job as defenders of this nation’s security getting shot at on a daily basis for little pay. Border agents get little to no help from the government and american people.

  9. Battlebob

    Really great OP/ED thank you for posting it.

  10. Pen

    I’ve lived in L.A. for 16 years now. In all the years I have lived here, I have never met one person who has said to me, I lost my job to an illegal immigrant. They are here, and yes they are working, but they work jobs that Americans won’t.

    They walk for days to come here for a better life and a job picking fruit and veggies at minimum wage and living in a shack on the outskirts of a corporate farm in Oxnard, CA is a better life. Or cleaning a house or minding someone’s kids – often working more than 8 hours a day for less than minimum wage – yup, it’s a better life.

    American’s want the cheap food and I’ve driven through the corporate farms out here. It’s heartbreaking to see it and truly there are no American’s that would work in the field’s the way these people do.

    Yes we can do better enforcing the borders. Yes there are problems with drugs come over the borders and yes, the Border agents are sometimes at risk.

    I also know kids in my daughter’s school who’s parents don’t speak english and these kids work their tails off to get a good education and have something better, only to not be able to go to college, or worse, face that their parents who are here illegally, while they may were born here, might get sent back to where ever they came from.

    It all sucks in my opinion. Corporate America is getting richer for all of this and many are suffering, but many American’s enjoy what Corporate America sells us off of what can be compared to slave labor.

    There are better ways for all of this. Making it illegal for a Catholic priest to help an immigrant is not the better way. Rounding up the illegal immigrants and putting them in camps to deport them is not the better way.

    We need to up the minimum wage, Kennedy has been pushing that for some time now. We need to get the people who are here illegally to start giving back to the system instead of using our resources like our schools and medical care. They are contributing to the economy but not equitably, as Americans are who pay taxes on their income.

  11. Pam/Pen,
    Immigrants are having effects on some trades that do not demand higher education.
    A perfect example is auto body work. This is a trade demanding skill, but not necessarily an education. Many shops hire illegal folks, pay them nothing, put out shoddy work for insurance companies, do not hire skilled citizens, and pocket the difference.
    Most companies have a bunch of low paid metal bangers and maybe a couple with higher skills.
    It is the same with the housing industry. The labor portion of new home construction is low because of the abundance of cheap low-skilled labor. There may be a couple of finish carpenters but most of the low-skill framing work is done by illegal folks.
    This depresses wages for all and does not grow a pool of skilled carpenters.
    This is the same for plumbers and pool construction. Almost all work, including the plumbing, is done by illegal people. The only citizen is the supervisor.
    So it is not just maid service, lawn care and other low skill jobs that illegal folks are taking. They are taking higher value jobs where more skill is needed.
    The logic behind this is these folks will be assimilated into society, pay taxes and SS and become productive citizens. They aren’t paying anything. Their kids are going to school and getting better. Citizens are forced to enter higher-skilled fields. This is fine as long as there are education and support systems available. The union journeyman skill progression needs to be strengthened. Try getting a master plumber to your house.
    So how about these ideas for starters.
    1 – Enforce illegal employment laws. If a company wants to hire illegal workers, fine the crap out of them unless they take steps to make them legal. For every citizen they hire, they get a tax break. (Clinton did something similar).
    2 – Repeal NAFTA and the other supposedly free trade agreements. All they do is depress wages in Mexico and encourage people to come here.
    3 – We need to be very active working with the Mexican government to improve their economy. Mexico will have elections soon and there are progressive candidates who want to improve the life of Mexico’s poor and remove the graft and corruption that runs the country. We can only cheer on the sidelines and offer incentives to help Mexico clean up its act. There is a northern migration in the Western Hemisphere where South and Central America are moving into Mexico.
    4 – Pass the Kennedy-McCain bill. If the folks are low income then remove the fines and back-taxes provisions. They won’t be able to afford the fines and they never made enough to pay taxes anyway. The idea is to put them on the path to becoming citizens and give their kids a chance.
    5 – We need to secure our Southern border. We pay enormous sums to secure our southern border now and have pushed the immigration alleys into the harsh desert where 500 people die a year. We are apprehending the same amount of folks as always. The remaining alleys need to be closed off. If you want to come in, meet similar requirements that our ancestors did going through Ellis Island. Grab a SS card along the way.

  12. Battlebob

    I agree that the Kennedy McCain bill is a good start and getting people into the system to start paying taxes.

    My point was what I see here in the L.A. area which could be different in other areas. I have plenty of friends who work in the trades and I just don’t hear from them that they lost their job or can’t find owrk because of illegals. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening, but it doesn’t seem to be a complaint among people I know.

    What I do hear however, is people who lose their jobs to outsourcing.

  13. Pamela,
    The question and bad assumption on my part: are those taking the medium skilled jobs really here illegally?
    Or were they born here and are enjoying the fruits of their citizenship?
    It is true that former middle-class jobs are going to people willing to work for far less money.
    Are they here illegally or are they just desperate?
    I know from talking to home construction, pool, landscaping, travel and plumbing contractors that illegal aliens are taking jobs away from citizens. The question is how many citizens want them?
    The fellow that installed my new kitchen and counter tops in Phoenix was a former illegal who got a low-end job tearing out old kitchens. He learned the trade, learned English and is now a master craftsman. He pays taxes, SS, his kids are in high school and he has a son in Iraq. He took a terribly hard job that no one wanted and now has a very good job.
    The story is same for the guy who repaired my swimming pool. He took a job digging pool and spa foundations and now owns his own company and employs others like him.
    Each job was a crap job that paid nothing without benefits. Each has a great job now. Did they take something away from a local person? I do not know. Are citizens willing to take a job that may not even pay minimum wage with no benefits and hope for a better future? Some probably are. Not all illegal folks and not all citizens have the chance to get a better job. So making sweeping generalizations about who is affected is dangerous on my part.

    Since we don’t know who is here legally, is it necessary to find out? Having children living in poverty because of misguided political actions is wrong.
    We need to secure our southern border and do what we can to improve Mexico so people stay.
    I see nothing wrong with an orderly flow of people entering this country. But people who enter have responsibilities to become a part of our society. There must be language training.
    I see nothing wrong with trying to improve the lives of those here illegally because their kids will suffer needlessly. So if that means schooling and free lunches then so be it. The federal government must pick up the tab since this is the cost of their failed policies.

  14. Battlebob

    I agree with you on all of this. I know what I see here in LA and yes, it’s hard to say if some are taking the low paying jobs are legal or not.

    Listening to Stephanie Miller on Air America this morning she said, people don’t ask here in LA do you have a Green Card. We don’t know who is and who isn’t.

    And as for the kids, well, my daughter’s high school has about a 75% Latino population. On the whole the kids are all hard working, wanting to learn and get ahead. I think it’s great.

    On that note – some LA High Schools walked out again today. Nothing in the news here yet, but my daughter left me a message a couple of hours ago to tell me she was walking out! I’m proud of the kid I raised!

  15. Battlebob

    Update from my kid, they are heading to the Courthouse. I’m going to go try to catch up with them and get some photos.

  16. Look at the pictures carefully and see if you can find one American Flag! I live in southern California – they shut down a freeway – they just lost the vote of every commuter on the 110.

  17. Dahl

    There were tons of American Flags on Saturday. If you think these kids will cause commuters to not vote you’re wrong. They had every right to protest and people understand that.

    I live in LA too and I was out with the high schoolers today. They were inspiring.

  18. Dahl,
    After all the whining about kids being so self-centered, how about real praise for those who demonstrated for what they know is correct.

    Instead of complaining, why not join them?

  19. There shouldn’t have been ANY Mexican flags at the protests. Not one. If the protests want to say they love America, and if they want other Americans to believe that they have the best interests of America in mind, they wouldn’t wave the flag of a country that treated them so horribly, they had to leave it (legally or illegally).

    As usual, however, for too many people, it’s about race and color, not love for America. They make a fortune in California compared to the pennies they would be making in Mexico, they live a good life compared to the fear they would be living under in Mexico because of rampant crime and corrupt police, then they walk down the streets of America flying Mexican flags??? Disgusting.

  20. shaolin-poet

    The majority of the flags at the LA rally were American flags.

    http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2006-03/22614016.jpg

    http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2006-03/22614190.jpg

    No one complained on St Patricks day when Irish flags were everywhere.

    And as for your statement that they make a “fortune” here – get off the red koolaid. They are not much better off here than they are in Mexico.

  21. There is a differnece between outsourcing and losing your job to immigrants. There is a difference between the older and newer generations, the ones who immigrated and the ones who were born here, the ones who make an effort to learn english and go to school and the ones who stay home all day and steal from their neighborhood. There is a difference between the hard workers and the loafers. There are differences within the entire hispanic population, same as any other ethnicity or nationality. If you haven’t seen the problems or heard of them then you’re just not in the right area and you’re talking to the wrong people.

    I agree that it’s not right to “punish” the entire population of illegal immigrants, knowing many who have put forth so much effort to better themselves, but I feel that if given this chance to gain citizenship those who are truly worthy of it will work for it and the rest should be sent back where they came from.

    As for the border issue, letting more illegals into the country will only make the issue worse. Same as with those already in the US, if they truly desire to come in and make a better life for themselves and their families then they should be able to apply for a visa at the border and gain citizenship over time.

  22. There is know reason for anyone who is a legal citizen of the United States of America to be HUNGRY, UNEMPOLYED, WITHOUT HEALTHCARE or HOMELESS. Why is this?

    Please enforce this county’s constitution.

    Why do they not fight for the right they enjoy here in America from the countries they run from?

    I am afraid for America!

  23. I am Democrat and have been my whole life.The reason I joined the party because it represented equal rights and the common hard working Americans of this country.Just like my country my party is also changing and let me tell you I DONT LIKE IT.If what I am seeing on the streets of our state of Massachusetts is what this country will look like if we get the Senate’s immigration bill “I DONT WANT IT”How could Democrates align themselves with this madman in the whitehouse.He couldn’t handle katrina what makes you think he can controll mass immigration.The only thing I have heard coming out of washington that makes sense is to hold hearings to actually look at this bill and that is coming from REPUBLICANS, I FEEL LIKE I JUST WOKE UP IN THE FRICKEN MATRIX after swallowing a blue democratic pill.Republicans sound like democrates and democrates sound like republicans just look at Hillary she has turned into a damn NEO-CON.Democrates need stand up for the people that will be heart by this bill the most working men and women in our communities.

  24. Cat Deeley

    Click me baby one more time!.