2006 United States immigration reform protests

2006 United States immigration reform protests

2006 United States immigration reform protests
Thousands gather in favor of immigrants rights in Nashville, Tennessee on March 29, 2006
Date March 29, 2006
Location Nashville, Tennessee

In 2006, millions of people participated in protests over a proposed change to U.S. immigration policy. The protests began in response to proposed legislation known as H.R. 4437, which would raise penalties for Illegal immigration and classify undocumented immigrants and anyone who helped them enter or remain in the US as felons. As part of the wider immigration debate, most of the protests not only sought a rejection of this bill, but also a comprehensive reform of the country's immigration laws that included a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.

A major demonstration in Chicago on March 10, 2006 estimated at 100,000 people was the initial impetus for protests throughout the country.[1] The largest single demonstration occurred in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 with a march of more than 500,000 people through downtown.[2] The largest nationwide day of protest occurred on April 10, 2006, in 102 cities across the country,[3][4] with 350,000–500,000 in Dallas and around 300,000 in Chicago. Most of the protests were peaceful and attracted considerable media attention. Additional protests took place on May Day.


  • Role of Spanish-language media 1
  • Controversy and backlash over flag symbolism and protests 2
  • Backlash 3
  • Timeline 4
    • March 4.1
    • April 4.2
    • May 4.3
  • Legislation 5
  • Kennedy ruling 6
  • Organizations 7
    • Recruiting Methods 7.1
      • Cooperation between anti-illegal immigration groups 7.1.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Role of Spanish-language media

Spanish-language media outlets, in particular Univision, Telemundo, Azteca America and various Spanish-language radio stations across the country, in large part aided in mobilizing people for the protests. Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, a Spanish-language radio personality from Los Angeles, persuaded eleven of his counterparts from Spanish-language radio stations based in Los Angeles to also rally listeners to attend planned protests.[5][6][7]

Controversy and backlash over flag symbolism and protests

The initial protests caused much controversy after some protesters waved Mexican and Central American flags instead of American flags. Various talk-radio hosts and columnists played up the contentious nature of displaying non-U.S. flags during the protests.[8] One particular incident referred to involved a protest at Montebello High School in California, where a Mexican flag was raised on a flagpole over a United States flag flying in the distressed (or upside-down) position.[9]

As part of the backlash over the protests and the controversy over the flag symbolism issue, a group calling themselves "Border Guardians" burned a Mexican flag in front of the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9, 2006.[10] The following day the group proceeded to burn two Mexican flags during protest in Tucson which was estimated to have had 15,000 participants. After the police seized a student who had thrown a water bottle at the "Border Guardians", they followed the police officers calling for them to let the student go. As the situation escalated violence broke out and 6 were arrested with dozens being pepper-sprayed. The next day the police arrested the leader of the Border Guardians, Roy Warden, for charges including assault and starting a fire in a public park.

Because of the controversy, organizers of the protests encouraged protesters to leave their Mexican flags at home, with Cardinal Roger Mahony telling Los Angeles protesters to not fly any flag other than the United States flag because, "...they do not help us get the legislation we need."[11] As a result of this controversy later protests featured fewer Mexican flags and more protesters carrying American flags.[12]

In addition, California's Oceanside Unified School District banned flags and signs from its campuses after "Mexican flag-wavers clashed with U.S. flag-wavers."[8]


The Washington Post reported that, in the Washington D.C. suburb of Herndon, a day labor center at which suspected undocumented immigrants gathered was closed and its mayor and two aldermen lost reelection, in part due to immigration concerns.[13][14]

Membership in the Minuteman Project increased due in part to backlash from the protests. On May 3, responding to the May 1 boycotts, the Minutemen embarked on a caravan across the United States in an effort to bring attention to a perceived need for border enforcement. The caravan was expected to reach Washington D.C. on May 12.

Regarding the Tucson-based anti-immigration movement: In 2006 the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote: "Roy Warden, 59, emerged this spring as one of the country's most controversial, volatile, and, many believe, dangerous characters of the anti-immigration movement."[15]



  • March 10: 100,000 marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza in Chicago but organizers say that about 250,000- 500,000 actually marched.[1]
  • March 24: 20,000 marched to Senator [17]
  • March 25: more than 500,000 march in downtown Los Angeles.[18]
  • March 26: 7,000 people rallied at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.[19]
  • March 27: Hundreds of high school students walk out of class in protest in Northern Virginia .[20]
  • March 29: 8,000–9,000 marched from The Coliseum to Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
  • March 30: Robert Pambello, the principal of Reagan High School in Houston, placed a Mexican flag below the American and Texan flags and was ordered to remove it. He later resigned from his position for apparently unrelated reasons.[21] In South West Houston, high school students from Robert E. Lee High, Bellaire High, Sam Houston High School (joining from Houston's Northside) and other middle schoolers joined together in a march that was taken to city hall.[22]
  • March 31: 3,000 high school and middle school students in Las Vegas walk out of class to protest. Some college and community college students join them on their protest.[23]


  • April 1: 10,000 marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square in New York City.
  • April 6: Hundreds of Aurora, Illinois students left school to march downtown to protest.
  • April 8: Several hundred people rally at Chicano Park in San Diego.[24]
  • April 9: Demonstrations in several cities across the United States, including:
    • 50,000 marched in San Diego from Balboa Park, through downtown to the County Administration Building.[25]
Students Of Jersey City's McNair Academic High School gather to protest the proposed H.R. 4437 at Liberty State Park after walking out of their school at 2:00 pm on April 10, 2006.
    • 6,000 protested in Des Moines, Iowa at Nollen Plaza in support of comprehensive immigration reform.,[26] April 9
  • April 10: Demonstrations were staged in many cities and towns across the United States;
    • Atlanta, Georgia, at least 50,000 people rallied both for and against amnesty.
    • Boston, Massachusetts, approximately 2,000 demonstrators march from Boston Common to Copley Square.[27]
    • Charleston, South Carolina, at least 4,000 people gathered and protested the inability of lawmakers to agree on legislation that would lead to citizenship.[28]
    • Fort Myers, Florida, an estimated 75,000 people took part in "The Great March" which affected traffic in nearby areas of the march. The stream of protesters was at least a mile long at times.
    • Las Vegas, Nevada, a well organized march of approximately 3,000 people was held. Protesters marched two miles from Jaycee Park to the Federal Courthouse during the first day of the Clark Country Spring Break, waving Mexican and American flags alike. They protested in favor of amnesty.
    • New York City, between 70,000 and 125,000 people demonstrated in front of City Hall. Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer spoke at the rally. Neither called for amnesty, though many of the crowd's signs and chants did.[29]
    • Oakland, California, an estimated 10,000 people took part in the demonstration.[30]
    • Salt Lake City, Utah, a unity rally was held at the City-County Building; there were an estimated 15,000 protesters.
    • San Jose, California, an estimated 25,000 demonstrators marched several miles from King and Story to city hall. Highway access to US 101 and I-680 was closed, causing significant traffic backups.
    • Seattle, Washington, between 15,000 and 25,000 marched to a rally at the federal building where speakers in support of the demonstrators, such as Mayor Greg Nickels and County Executive Ron Sims spoke. Just five thousand were expected.[31]
  • April 11: Several protests occurred in Nevada.
    • In Las Vegas, Nevada, a rally with an estimated minimum of 300+ was held at the Cashman Center; several important opposition figures showed up, such as Jim Gilchrist, the Nevada Secretary of State, local radio host Mark Edwards, and numerous state Minuteman Project branches to protest against amnesty.
    • In Carson City, Nevada, an estimated 200 students walked out of class, rallying in front of the Governor's Mansion.[32]
    • In Reno, Nevada, between 2,000 to 4,000 protesters marched through the downtown area, from the University of Nevada, Reno campus to the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Building, and continued to a designated spot near the Meadowood Mall. Traffic was held and diverted along South Virginia Street during the march.
  • April 13: Students from several Woodburn, Oregon (a town with a large Hispanic community) schools marched out of class.[33]
  • April 19: Students from various Denver high schools and middle schools walked out of class and marched to the capitol.
  • April 27: Approximately 200 volunteers and supporters built a 6 foot high, quarter mile section of barbed wire fencing along the Mexico and United States border to send a clear message to Americans and leaders in Washington regarding the lack of security at our borders.[34]
  • April 28: Nuestro Himno, a Spanish language rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, is played simultaneously on about 500 Spanish language radio stations across the country. President Bush denounced the effort saying the National Anthem should be sung in English[35]


A rally on May 1 in Chicago
  • May 1: The "Great American Boycott" takes place across the United States and at a few locations abroad.
    • An estimated 400,000 marched in Chicago, according to police, though organizers pegged the total at closer to 700,000; "Latinos were joined by immigrants of Polish, Irish, Asian and African descent."[36]
    • An estimated 400,000 marched in Los Angeles, according to police[37]
    • The boycott was said to have had "little economic impact" in Arizona
    • Modesto, California saw close to 10,000 people marching in the streets, possibly the largest assembly of people in the city's history. Major city streets were shut down as a direct result.[38]
    • Over 15,000 protesters were reported in Santa Barbara, California.
    • Some supporters have hailed this as "the most important boycott since the days of the civil rights movement".[39]
    • Approximately 20,000 marched in the Bay Area of California.[40]
    • At least 10,000 marched in Orange County[41]
    • A riot in Vista, California was disbursed by 200 police officers.[42]
    • Local news estimates that 3,000+ people marched from Jaycee Park in Las Vegas, Nevada; some local businesses suffered but the majority of businesses felt no financial impact.[43]
    • According to LA Observed, an altercation occurred between protestors and police at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles.[44]
Immigrant rights protest at the US–Mexico border in Tijuana
    • Thousands of immigrants and their supporters did not go to work or school in Iowa[45] United for the Dignity and Safety of Immigrants (UDSI) (organizing group estimates)
  • May 2: The Minuteman Project says that 400 new members joined in April in response to the protests.[46]
  • May 3: In response to the pro-immigration reform boycott, the Minutemen started a two-vehicle caravan across the United States which reached Washington, D.C. on May 12.[47]
  • May 25: The United States Senate passes S. 2611 which includes a path to citizenship for up to 8.5 million undocumented immigrants. The bill eventually failed and was never enacted.[48]


H.R. 4437 (The Border Protection, Anti terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005) was passed by the United States House of Representatives on December 16, 2005 by a vote of 239 to 182. It is also known as the "Sensenbrenner Bill," for its sponsor in the House of Representatives, Jim Sensenbrenner. H.R. 4437 was seen by many as the catalyst for the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 previously gave "amnesty" to 2.7 million undocumented immigrants. Proponents of the measure, including then-President Regan, said the measure, paired with stricter employer rules and a better path for legal entry, would reduce illegal immigration.

The companion bill passed by the United States Senate is S. 2611, which never passed conference committee. The House Republican leadership, stated that it rejects S. 2611 wholly and will pass legislation that only addresses border security. The end of the 109th Congress marked the death of this bill.

Kennedy ruling

The USA Supreme Court on June 16, 2008, ruled in Dada v. Mukasey, per ponente Justice Kennedy ruled (5–4) "that someone who is here illegally may withdraw his voluntarily agreement to depart and continue to try to get approval to remain in the United States." The Court hold that complying with a deportation order did not strip an immigrant of the right to appeal that deportation order.[49] The lawsuit is about 2 seemingly contradictory provisions of immigration law. One prevents deportation by voluntary departure from the country. The other sectition allows immigrants who are here illegally but whose circumstances changed to build their case to immigration officials, and must remain in the US. In the case, Samson Dada, a Nigerian citizen, overstayed beyond the expiration of his tourist visa in 1998. Immigration authorities ordered him to leave the country as he agreed to leave voluntarily, to allow his legal re-entry than if he had been deported.[50][51]


The following organizations mobilized from hundreds (FAIR) to millions of people (Great American Boycott) around immigration reform in the United States during 2006.

  • May 1, 2006 'A Day Without Immigrant' National Mobilization Endorsers' – national coalition of 215 organizations that mobilized one million protesters across the U.S. on May 1, 2006 for the Great American Boycott.
  • We Are America Alliance – national network of hundreds of regional coalitions that mobilized 2 million protesters across the U.S. on April 10, 2006 and coordinated protests in the May 1 national protests
  • El Paro and the Day Without and Immigrant Coalition (Philadelphia Region) Philadelphia regional coalition of dozens of organizations invited and mobilized thousands of protesters in 7 marches from February 14 to April 10, 2006.
  • Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Kentucky coalition that mobilized an estimated 10,000 people in downtown Lexington, KY on April 10, 2006 with other mobilizations around the state.
  • March 25 Coalition – Southern California based coalition that mobilized 750,000 protesters in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006
  • Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) – mobilized dozens of people in various counter-protests
  • Minuteman Project – held sporadic counter-protests in some major US cities

Recruiting Methods

Typically anti illegal immigration movements focus on Grassroots recruiting tactics; the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and Minuteman Project use these methods to boost membership. After the 2006 immigration reform protest membership in anti-immigration movement participation increased by 600%.

Cooperation between anti-illegal immigration groups

Anti-illegal immigration groups often do not pursue the same agenda in the same ways; however, they do form Coalitions when their agendas match other movements. One of the major joint efforts that these groups engage in is access to mailing lists for individuals who have donated money in the past to support the movement; Federation for American Immigration Reform and Minutemen Civil Defense Corps have shared lists of mailers with one another in recent years.

See also


  1. ^ a b Avila, Oscar; Olivo, Antonio (March 11, 2006), "A Show of Strength: Thousands March to Loop for Immigrants' Rights", Chicago Tribune 
  2. ^ Watanabe, Teresa; Becerra, Hector (March 26, 2006), "500,000 Pack Streets to Protest Immigration Bills; The rally, part of a massive mobilization of immigrants and their supporters, may be the largest L.A. has seen.", Los Angeles Times: A1 
  3. ^ Updated 64 minutes ago (March 25, 2006). "500,000 rally immigration rights in L.A. - Politics". MSNBC. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ "CNN.com – Protests precede Senate immigration battle – Mar 28, 2006". CNN. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ Flaccus, Gillian (March 29, 2006). "Spanish-language media credited on pro-immigrant rallies". The Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ Melissa Block, NPR-All Things Considered: "Spanish D.J. Organizes Immigration-Reform Protests" March 28, 2006
  7. ^ NPR-Day to Day: "Immigration Protests, Part 1: Spanish-Language Media" April 7, 2006
  8. ^ a b "The foreign flag rule" by Clarence Page, The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 2006. Retrieved April 14, 2006.
  9. ^ Student punished for American flag incident by Tracy Garcia, Whittier Daily News, April 1, 2006, and "The American Flag Comes Second" by Michelle Malkin, posted March 29, 2006 01:15 AM. Both accessed April 14, 2006.
  10. ^ "Mexico says U.S. group burning Mexican flag is unacceptable" KVOA TV, Tucson, AZ, April 11, 2006. Retrieved April 14, 2006.
  11. ^ "Protesters work to change image" by Peter Prengaman, Associated Press, Long Beach Press-Telegram, April 11, 2006. Retrieved April 14, 2006.
  12. ^ Krauthammer, Charles (April 14, 2006). "Immigrants Must Choose". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2006. 
  13. ^ Turque, Bill; Stewart, Nikita (May 3, 2006). "Labor Site Backlash Felt at Polls In Herndon". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  14. ^ Reid, T.R. (May 3, 2006). "Hill Impasse Spurs States to Tackle Illegal Immigration". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Deadly Force | Southern Poverty Law Center". Splcenter.org. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  16. ^ Yvonne Wingett and Daniel González, Immigrants protested in Valley, cities across U.S., The Arizona Republic, March 28, 2006
  17. ^ Thousands in Phoenix at Immigration Rally, National Society for Hispanic Professionals (NSHP)
  18. ^ "Stirring the Other L.A.: How the media and immigrant advocates got 500,000 people to protest". Los Angeles Weekly. March 30, 2006. 
  19. ^ "Columbus Rally for Immigrants' Rights, 2006-03-26". Taterenner.com. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Students Walk Out in 2nd Day Of Immigration Rights Protest". WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Reagan HS principal resigns – Houstonist: Houston News, Food, Arts & Events". Archived from the original on August 11, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009. 
  22. ^ abc13.com: News from KTRK, around Houston and southeast Texas March 30, 2006
  23. ^ "Immigration Law Protests March On".  
  24. ^ sandiego.indymedia.org |Zapatista rally & march Chicano Park
  25. ^ 50,000 throng downtown in immigrant-rights march, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2006
  26. ^ "CNN.com – Lawmakers: Immigration bill not dead – Apr 9, 2006". CNN. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  27. ^ Protestors Rally Against Immigration Changes – News Archive Story – WCVB Boston
  28. ^ "Multimedia story archive | The Post and Courier". Charleston.net. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  29. ^ Swarns, Rachel L. (April 11, 2006). "Immigrants Rally in Scores of Cities for Legal Status". The New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  30. ^ Staff writer, "Oakland Adds Voice to Growing National Debate", Oakland Tribune, April 11, 2006.
  31. ^ Thousands march for immigration rights
  32. ^ Carson students join nationwide protest of immigration reform | Nevada Appeal |Serving Carson City, Nevada
  33. ^ Derek Sciba (April 13, 2006). "Woodburn students march over immigration".  
  34. ^ "Minutemen volunteers build fence to protest illegal immigration". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on April 4, 2009. 
  35. ^ Bush Says Anthem Should Be in English
  36. ^ Archibold, Randal (May 2, 2006). "Immigrants Take to U.S. Streets in Show of Strength". The New York Times. p. A1. 
  37. ^ Gorman, Anna; Miller, Marjorie; Landsberg, Mitchell (May 2, 2006). "Marchers fill L.A.'s streets". Los Angeles Times. p. A1. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  38. ^ Modesto Rising: 10,000 Protest, Unpermitted March Lasts Hours : Indybay
  39. ^ The Global Report
  40. ^ Massive Immigrant General Strike in US, Northern California : Indybay
  41. ^ Delson, Jennifer; Reyes, David (May 2, 2006). "Santa Ana Rally Draws at Least 10,000; Many Businesses Close". Los Angeles Times. p. B1 (Orange County edition). 
  42. ^ Repard, Pauline; Davis, Kristina (May 2, 2006). "200 officers clear streets in Vista after reported riot". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  43. ^ Aftermath of the Mayday Immigration Walk-Out
  44. ^ Roderick, Kevin (May 1, 2006). "Police fighting with protesters at MacArthur Park". LA Observed.
  45. ^ Norman, Jane; de Jesus, Jose (April 1, 2006). "Iowa's future linked to fate of immigration". The Des Moines Register.
  46. ^ Vu, Thuy. "Protests May Stir Anti Immigration Backlash". San Francisco: KPIX-TV. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. 
  47. ^ Lowe, Peggy. "New voice joins minuteman caravan". Orange County Register. 
  48. ^ Longley, Robert. "Immigration Reform: Protest and Support". US Government Info. 
  49. ^ See Dada v. Mukasey, 554 U.S. 1 (2008)
  50. ^ supremecourt.gov, Dada vs. Mukasey, No 06-1181, June 16, 2008
  51. ^ ap.google.com, Top court eases rules for foreigners to try to stay in US Archived October 29, 2008 at the Wayback Machine

External links

  • Immigration Debate Resources – A website with education facts concerning the Immigration debate
  • GranMarcha.org – photos of the La Gran Marcha "The Great March" held in Los Angeles to defeat H.R. 4437
  • Who's Behind the Immigration Rallies?
  • From New Media Journal:Invading Army Stages "Granmarcha",Aided by 5th Column
  • The Great March of Los Angeles 2006 (Gran Marcha) Photos and commentary of the Gran Marcha of Los Angeles, the largest march in U.S. history.
  • 'Today we march, tomorrow we vote': fearful US Latinos flex political muscle
  • Student immigration law protests continue
  • Student Walkouts Continue; Officials Vow Crackdown
  • Test of fire as immigration bill is placed before Senate
  • "Thousands protest immigration plan"
  • Richard Renner's photos of the 2006-03-26 rally in Columbus, Ohio
  • The American Resistance – Featured on CNN protest special
  • Boycott has little impact