The media appears to be bemused by the May Day rallies. What is their impact? My guess is that the rallies may have hardened the get-though sentiment among Republicans in the House of Representatives, while they also may have moved forward political organization among Hispanics. It may result in higher voter registrations among Hispanics.
An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer starts with: “A day after more than 1 million immigrants and supporters skipped work to march in rallies across the nation, some advocates say the mixed messages surrounding the “Day Without Immigrants” show a need for a unified front and the movement’s own Cesar Chavez. An estimated 400,000 people marched in both Chicago and Los Angeles, but fewer than 10,000 turned out in cities including Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, which all have large Hispanic populations.
With so many organizers pushing their own plans for the May 1 rallies, and no single group at the forefront, there wasn’t a unifying plan. And there were conflicting signals from various leaders questioning whether a boycott that disrupted the economy would do more harm than good. Even individual immigration-reform leaders are torn over how best to keep the momentum going. The grass-roots flavor of the recent demonstrations has generated excitement and publicity, but empowering an umbrella organization or dynamic figurehead could galvanize the effort the way Chavez did for farm workers and Martin Luther King Jr. did for the civil rights movement.
“It’s always good to have a figure that melds it together,” said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, a major organizer and supporter of rallies Monday. “But right now, we are seeing hundreds of leaders coming together. Many of them are people nobody had ever heard of,” Medina said. “This organic organization will outlive any one charismatic figure.” Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, director of immigration studies at New York University, said he believes any consolidation of local groups won’t happen until leaders see what comes out of Congress. “Clearly the ball now is in the court of the political class,” Suarez-Orozco said. “But in the long run, the elephant in the room is how (the marches) will be translated into political muscle.”
Organizers in many cities see that effort already under way. Reform activists in Oklahoma, California, Alaska and Illinois said they have started voter registration or citizenship drives in recent weeks – making good on the promise emblazoned on thousands of marchers’ signs that read: “Today we march, tomorrow we vote.” Medina said SEIU planned to sponsor citizenship forums in major cities and work with churches and activist groups to do voter registration drives.