Pay attention

April 12, 2006

Using a classic American tactic, immigrants have been demonstrating across the country, seeking changes in law and policy. They've been coming out by the tens of thousands - last week and again Monday - in cities such as Washington, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. And they are forcing local and national politicians as well as their constituents to sit up and take notice, while Congress struggles to come to some agreement on meaningful immigration reform.

Some organizers of the recent demonstrations are comparing their efforts to the civil rights struggle and the pivotal 1963 March on Washington. The turnouts are being compared to those of the Million Man March, in favor of black family unity, and the Million Mom March, for gun control. That so many undocumented immigrants are protesting publicly - alongside legal immigrants - represents a significant shift in how they are balancing the benefits of advocacy for legalization against the perhaps safer course of remaining in the shadows.

But many participants are clear about the message they are sending. As protesters in Washington chanted this week, "Today we march. Tomorrow we vote!" It's a message that citizens, politicians and any student of American history should take seriously.

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