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Newer and older sections of the U.S.-Mexico border fence near San Diego.
John Moore / Getty Images
Immigration protest movement gains new impetus
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized immigration protest groups
The Central American immigrant crisis has complicated the campaign for immigration reform and even diluted some of its efforts by shifting media and public attention to border protests.
“The media play a big role in what message is sent,” said Carolyn Brown, an assistant professor of journalism at American University who specializes in the anti-immigration militia movement. “It covers the anti-immigrant movement more than the immigrant movement because it’s louder and sometimes a little crazier and makes for a better story.”
Groups that had lost momentum “are using the current influx of young children and women as a way to revive the movement,” Brown said.
But as the promise of immigration reform this year quickly fades, organizations from United We Dream to Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are faced with the double challenge of countering protests at the border while continuing to pressure Congress and the White House to reform immigration laws that would give the 11 million-plus immigrants who are here illegally a chance to become citizens.
Faith groups have stepped in to help shelter Central American children and families, and local organizations are staging counter-rallies at the border. United We Dream had members at the border in McAllen to push for a fair hearing for Central Americans fleeing strife in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director of the advocacy group.
But while the border crisis plays out, the immigration rights lobby is keeping its focus on Washington.
This week, national Latino and Asian groups released a 2014 National Immigration Score Card that rates Congress members’ records on immigration reform: 219 members received a failing score of 59 percent, and 169 got a perfect score of 100 percent. Overall, House members averaged a score of 77 percent.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the #Not1More Deportation Campaign are organizing a march to the White House this Saturday. On Monday, groups rallied at the White House and called for the participation of undocumented leaders in any negotiations on immigration reform.
So while grass-roots anti-immigration campaigns are erupting in cities across the country, the bulk of the immigration lobby is targeting Washington.
A Fox News poll of 1,057 registered voters released last week found that 60 percent of respondents said undocumented immigrants should stay and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship.
When asked if they would favor or oppose having large numbers of children who entered illegally housed in their community, the respondents were almost equally split: 46 percent for, 48 percent against, well within the margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
“Most Americans believe we should take care of children,” Sousa-Rodriguez said. “We’re protecting the lives of young kids, and we need to create a more humane process for immigrants to live in the United States.”
But the opposition continues.
“We anticipate well over 100, if not a couple of hundred vehicles taking part in the convoy” this week, Odom said. “But there are some shady tactics. People are talking about slashing our tires, and one of the tactics that bubbled up is planning to block the convoy in a similar way that Murrieta [protesters] blocked buses.”
Although many of the demonstrations that have been touted as bringing out hundreds have turned out much smaller, immigration advocates are keeping a wary eye on the groundswell of opposition.
“When we see alliances building between fringe groups and more mainstream groups, we’re very concerned,” Garvey said. “We see some long-term consequences.”