2006 United States immigration reform protests

Enlarge picture
Thousands gather in favor of immigrants rights in Nashville, Tennessee on March 29, 2006.
In 2006, millions of people were involved in protests over a proposed reform to existing United States immigration laws. The protests began in response to proposed legislation known as H.R. 4437, which would raise penalties for illegal immigration and classify unauthorized 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 an overhaul of this bill, but also a path to legalization for those who had entered the US illegally and fewer Immigration Services delays.

The largest national turnout of protests occurred on April 10, 2006, in 102 cities across the country. Crowds in several cities were estimated to be between 100,000 to over 500,000 people. Almost all of the protests were peaceful and attracted considerable media attention, although there was also controversy over what many people considered anti-American symbolism at some of the protests. Additional protests took place on May Day and many protesters that day carried portraits of revolutionary icon Che Guevara alongside American flags. Socialists and other left-wing organizations joined the protesters as well as some right-wing organizations and religious groups.

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.[1][2][3]

Role of the Internet

Internet community sites containing personal blogs also played a significant role in helping to "get the word out" on the dates and locations for the marches and demonstration protests. Whereas Spanish language radio concentrated on the Spanish speaking audience only, the Internet catered to Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic youths. MySpace in particular was seen as a significant source for attracting youth who speak English. Because of the Internet, the various marches and demonstrations which occurred around the nation attracted more than merely illegal aliens, immigrant advocate nonprofit organizations and churches. The Internet was directly responsible for attracting a large percentage of the English-speaking Hispanic American youth.

Controversy and backlash over flag symbolism and protests

The initial protests caused much controversy after a number of protesters waved Mexican and Central American flags. The issue of these flags was also repeated by media outlets and columnists.[4] One particular incident referred to involved a protest at Montebello High School in California, where a Mexican flag was raised on a flagpole over an United States flag flying in the distressed (or upside-down) position.[5]

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."[6] As a result of this controversy later protests featured fewer Mexican flags and more protesters carrying American flags.[7] This fact, though, did not end the controversy over the protests, with some commentators and bloggers also questioning the statements on signs held by certain protesters, which they described as racist and anti-American.[8]

The Mexica Movement was one of the most notable groups promoting controversial messages which were seen in the Los Angeles and Dallas marches. Their organization carried large signs stating "All Europeans Are Illegal On This Continent Since 1492" and "We are the ONLY owners of this continent!." They also carried large posters depicting Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner as a Nazi and the North American continent displayed under the heading, "Stolen Continent." Other controversial groups that countered the immigrant marches included many organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as hate groups such as neo-Nazi organizations and others who classify themselves as "Grassroots" organizations.

As part of the backlash over the protests and the controversy over the flag symbolism issue, a group who call themselves "Border Guardians" burned a Mexican flag in front of the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9, 2006.[9] The following day the group proceeded to burn two Mexican flags during protest in Tucson, Arizona, 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.

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."[10]


Citizens opposed to illegal immigration have also been active. The Washington Post recently reported that, in one U.S. town, a day labor center at which suspected illegal immigrants congregated was closed and its mayor and two aldermen were voted out of office as a result of immigration concerns.[11][12]

Membership in the Minuteman Project increased due in part to backlash from the protests.[13] 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 the need for border enforcement. The caravan was expected to reach Washington D.C. on May 12.




  • March 8: 40,000 rallied in front of the Capital in Washington D.C..
  • March 10: 100,000 marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza in Chicago but organizers say that about 250,000- 500,000 actually marched.[15]
  • March 23: 10,000-15,000 marched to Zeidler Park in Milwaukee.[16]
  • March 24: 20,000 marched to Senator Jon Kyl's office in Phoenix.[17] Tens of thousands of workers participate in a work stoppage in Georgia[18].
  • March 25: 750,000 (average estimate) marched from Olympic and Broadway to the City Hall in Los Angeles in what was called by a coalition "La Gran Marcha" (aka "The Grand March"). According to the Los Angeles Police Department, at least 500,000 marched to City Hall in protest the proposed Congressional legislation HR 4437 which had then passed the House of Representatives and moved onto the Senate for debate.[19]
  • March 25: 50,000 demonstrated in front of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.[20]
  • March 25: In downtown Cleveland, Ohio at the Public Square near Tower City and downtown Cleveland, a few hundred people of Mexican, Central American, Argentine, Chilean, Dominican, and Puerto Rican descent gathered to protest bill HR 4437.
  • March 26: 7,000 people rallied at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.http://www.taterenner.com/20060326.htm
  • March 27: 50,000 marched to the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit.[20]
  • March 27: In an infamous event called "Black Monday", over 125,000 Latino students from the LAUSD walked out of Los Angeles middle and high schools. Students marched out onto Los Angeles freeways, led a march to Los Angeles City Hall, then, began rioting in heavily-populated Hispanic neghborhoods, after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the students to display peaceful marching.
  • March 29: 8,000-9,000 marched from The Coliseum to Legislative Plaza in Nashville.[20]
  • March 30: Robert Pambello, the principal of Reagan High School in Houston, placed a Mexican flag over the American one and was ordered to remove it[21]. In April he was forced to resign from his position.
  • March 31: Echoing "Black Monday" in Los Angeles, numerous High school students protested in several cities in the United States.
*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; many were charged with truancy.[22]

*Approximately 6,000 people met at Chicano Park in San Diego and walked through Downtown to City College. Most of the attendees were from several middle and high schools.


*350,000-500,000 marched to City Hall in Dallas.[26]
*50,000 marched in San Diego from Balboa Park, through downtown to the County Administration Building.[27]
*40,000 marched from the Cathedral of St. Paul to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.[28]
*6,000 rally in Des Moines.[29]
Enlarge picture
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 2:00pm on April 10, 2006.
*Atlanta, Georgia, at least 50,000 people rallied for both pro-amnesty and anti-amnesty.[34]
*Boston, Massachusetts, approximately 2,000 demonstrators march from Boston Common to Copley Square.[35]
*Charleston, South Carolina, at least 4,000 people gathered and protested the inability of lawmakers to agree on legislation that would lead to citizenship.[36]
*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.[37]
*Grand Junction, Colorado 3,000 plus marched between two city parks, delegations were sent from all over Western Colorado.
*Indianapolis, Indiana, anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 protesters halt traffic Downtown. Speeches took place outside of the City-County Building throughout the afternoon.[38]
*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.[39]
*Lexington, Kentucky, over 10,000 people gathered at the courthouse plaza in downtown Lexington in support of comprehensive immigration reform, at 10-10-10, the largest rally in recent Kentucky History.
*Pensacola, Florida, over 1,000 people gathered in Martin Luther King, Jr Plaza in downtown Pensacola to protest pending legislation that would enact penalties on undocumented immigrants and their employers.
*Phoenix, Arizona, at least 100,000 people took to the streets.[40]
*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.[41]
*Oakland, California, an estimated 10,000 people took part in the demonstration.[42]
*Salt Lake City, Utah, a unity rally was held at the City-County Building; there were an estimated 15,000 protesters.[43]
*San Antonio, Texas, an estimated 18,000 people marched from Milam Park to the Federal Building in downtown.
*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.[44]
*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.[45]
  • 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.[46]
*In Carson City, Nevada, an estimated 200 students walked out of class, rallying in front of the Governor's Mansion.[47]
*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.[48]
  • April 13: Students from several Woodburn, OR (a town with a large Hispanic community) schools marched out of class.[49]
  • April 19: Students from various Denver high schools and middle schools walked out of class and marched to the capitol.[50]
  • 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.[51]
  • 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[52]


Enlarge picture
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.[53]
  • An estimated 75,000 protested in Denver and over a million in L.A.
  • The El Paso, Texas area saw close to 2,000 marchers that walked m from Sunland Park, New Mexico to the San Jacinto Plaza in downtown; another segment of marchers walked from the Chamizal Memorial National Park to the same downtown plaza. Numerous college students from local universities, New Mexico State and the University of Texas at El Paso also participated.
  • Austin, Texas, witnessed a gathering of thousands of residents.
  • An estimated 400,000 marched in Chicago, according to police, though organizers pegged the total at closer to 700,000[54]
  • The boycott was said to have had "little economic impact" in Arizona[55]
  • 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.[56]
  • Boston, Massachusetts had 2,000-2,500 people rally in Boston Commons, Chelsea, East Boston, and Somerville. There were also university and high school walkouts to a rally at Harvard Square, which then joined the Boston Commons rally.
  • Over 15,000 protesters were reported in Santa Barbara, California.[57]
  • Some supporters have hailed this as "the most important boycott since the days of the civil rights movement"[58].
  • Approximately 20,000 marched in the Bay Area of California[59].
  • A California newspaper reported that an altercation took place between police and protesters.[60]
  • 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.[61]
  • According to the L.A. Observed, an altercation occurred between protestors and police at McArthur Park in Los Angeles.[62]
  • Around 1,000 protesters in Tijuana, Mexico blocked the international border crossing in support of rights for illegal immigrants.
Enlarge picture
Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mexico border in Tijuana
  • May 2: The Minuteman Project says that 400 new members joined in April in response to the protests.[63]
  • 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.[64][65]
  • May 25: The United States Senate passes S. 2611 which includes a path to citizenship for up to 8.5 million illegal immigrants.


Main article: H.R. 4437
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 amnestied 2.7 million illegal aliens.

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.


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

See also


1. ^ Gillian Flaccus, The Boston Globe: "Spanish-language media credited on pro-immigrant rallies" March 29, 2006
2. ^ Melissa Block, NPR-All Things Considered: "Spanish D.J. Organizes Immigration-Reform Protests" March 28, 2006
3. ^ NPR-Day to Day: "Immigration Protests, Part 1: Spanish-Language Media" April 7, 2006
4. ^ foreign flag rule" by Clarence Page, The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
5. ^ 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.
6. ^ "Protesters work to change image" by Peter Prengaman, Associated Press, Long Beach Press-Telegram, April 11, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
7. ^ "Immigrants Must Choose" by Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, April 14, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
8. ^ "The Signs You Don't See..." by Michelle Malkin, posted April 11, 2006 12:14 PM, accessed April 14, 2006.
9. ^ "Mexico says U.S. group burning Mexican flag is unacceptable" KVOA TV, Tucson, AZ, April 11, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
10. ^ foreign flag rule" by Clarence Page, The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 2006, accessed April 14, 2006.
11. ^ [1]
12. ^ [2]
13. ^ [3]
14. ^ Bahadur, Gaiutra, "Workers step from shadows", Philadelphia Inquirer, February 15, 2006, p. A1.
15. ^ [4]
16. ^ Mark Johnson and Linda Spice,Thousands marched for immigrants, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 23, 2006
17. ^ Yvonne Wingett and Daniel González, Immigrants protested in Valley, cities across U.S., The Arizona Republic, March 28, 2006
18. ^ [5]
19. ^ Teresa Watanabe and Hector Becerra. "How DJs Put 500,000 Marchers in Motion", LA Times, 2006-03-28. 
20. ^ Kirk Mitchell and Annette Espinoza, Tens of thousands protest bill, The Denver Post, March 25, 2006
21. ^ [6]
22. ^ "Roughly 1,000 Las Vegas high schoolers protest immigration reform", KVBC, 2006-03-29.KVBC&rft.date=2006-03-29"> 
23. ^ Herbert Lowe, Rally in NYC, Newsday, April 2, 2006
24. ^ [7]
25. ^ [8]
26. ^ Dallas Hosts Record-Setting Rally, NBC5i, April 9, 2006
27. ^ 50,000 throng downtown in immigrant-rights march, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2006
28. ^ Thousands of immigrants march for rights in St. Paul, KARE11, April 10, 2006
29. ^ Abby Simons and Megan Hawkins, Immigrants: 'No Human Being is Illegal', Des Moines Register, April 9, 2006
30. ^ KXAN, [9]
31. ^ Karen Jacobs, Immigration rallies sweep through U.S. cities, Reuters, April 10, 2006
32. ^ Maria Newman, Immigration Advocates Rally Around U.S., The New York Times, April 10, 2006
33. ^ [10]
34. ^ [11]
35. ^ [12]
36. ^ [13]
37. ^ NBC2.com, "Over 75,000 take part in protest march", April 12, 2006
38. ^ [14]
39. ^ [15]
40. ^ [16]
41. ^ [17]
42. ^ Staff writer, "Oakland Adds Voice to Growing National Debate", Oakland Tribune, April 11, 2006.
43. ^ Jennifer W. Sanchez, "Latinos set demonstrations dates", Salt Lake Tribune
44. ^ Jessie Mangaliman, Joe Rodriguez and Sandra Gonzales, 25,000 march downtown, San Jose Mercury News
45. ^ [18]
46. ^ [19]
47. ^ [20]
48. ^ [21]
49. ^ Derek Sciba. "Woodburn students march over immigration", KATU, April 13, 2006.KATU&rft.date=April%2013,%202006"> 
50. ^ "Views from the Capitol rally", Rocky Mountain News, April 20, 2006. 
51. ^ [22]
52. ^ [23]
53. ^ [24]
54. ^ [25]
55. ^ [26]
56. ^ [27]
57. ^ [28]
58. ^ [29]
59. ^ [30]
60. ^ [31]
61. ^ [32]
62. ^ [33]
63. ^ [34]
64. ^ [35]
65. ^ [36]

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