Please note: UC Press e-books must be purchased separately from our print books, and require the use of Adobe Digital Editions. If you do not already have Adobe Digital Editions installed on your computer, please download and install the software. To complete your e-book order, please click on the e-book checkout button. A charge will appear on your credit card from Ingram Digital Group.
The Protests of 2006
What Were They, How Do We Understand Them, Where Do We Go?
Irene Bloemraad, Kim Voss, and Taeku Lee
In a short span of twelve weeks between mid-February and early May 2006, an estimated 3.7 to 5 million people took to the streets in over 160 cities across the United States to rally for immigrant rights. Marches and demonstrations were organized from Anchorage, Alaska, to Miami, Florida, and forty-two states in between. The marches brought together groups large and small, from the 24 people counted at a protest in Anchorage to as many as 700,000 people in the streets of Chicago and Los Angeles. Often wearing white T-shirts, waving American flags and, at times, flags from their homelands, the marchers included people of all ages, from babies in strollers and teenagers walking with their parents to gray-haired seniors in wheelchairs. The marchers spanned economic conditions and came from all walks of life, from day laborers and janitors to professionals and politicians, including the future U.S. president, Barack Obama. Together, they chanted slogans such as "Today we march, tomorrow we vote," and "¡Sí, se puede!" (Yes, we can!). The majority of those who took to the streets were Latino, but people of European, African, and Asian heritage marched too. The group of "Latinos" who participated was diverse, including immigrants from over a dozen Spanish-speaking countries, their U.S.-born children, and Chicano or Hispanic Americans whose families' U.S. roots stretch back a hundred years or more.
The sheer scope of the protests and the numbers involved are of historic proportions. During the heyday of the civil rights movements, in 1963, 250,000 people flocked to the Mall in Washington DC to hear Martin Luther King Jr. (JBHE Foundation 2003). In 1969, those who marched on Washington to protest American involvement in Vietnam numbered between 250,000 and 320,000 (Cicchetti et al. 1971). Looking back to the nineteenth century, some 300,000 to 500,000 people took to the streets to militate for labor rights, culminating in the famous Chicago Haymarket protest of 1886 (Avrich 1984; Foner 1986). Strikingly, none of these prior protests-historic moments in the annals of contentious politics in the United States-matched the largest May 1 rallies for immigrant rights in 2006.
Beyond the United States, the marches of 2006 were likely the largest protests over immigrant rights seen in the world, and they probably figure among the largest demonstrations held in Western nations in recent decades. Especially noteworthy, the 2006 U.S. mobilizations were peaceful and without a major violent incident: there were no demonstrator/police mêlées, not a single person died, and not a single car was burned, unlike other twenty-first-century protests and riots over immigrant rights and race relations in cities such as Birmingham, Paris, and Sydney.
The scope, scale, and peaceful nature of the protests demand explanation; this is one of the goals of our volume. Activism outside "normal" electoral or institutional politics suggests that standard political science accounts of behavioral politics or Latino/minority politics must be expanded beyond voting or contacting elected officials to include contentious action. At the same time, the protests do not quite fit within existing social movements scholarship: the strategies used were tried and true tactics employed by past social movements, but the nature of the 2006 mobilizations was unusual. The protests rapidly ballooned to unimagined proportions, were sustained for about three months, but then collapsed as quickly as they started. Why, like a July 4 fireworks display, did the marches ends as abruptly as they began? It is unclear whether the 2006 protests better represent "spontaneous" collective action, as articulated by an older generation of social scientists and recently retheorized (Killian 1984; Biggs 2003, 2005), or a "sustained" movement in line with most contemporary political process and new social movement models of contentious action.
Much of the research reported here suggests that the rapid, large-scale mobilization arose, in part, due to the loose network of local groups who received support from actors like the media or Catholic Church, organizations that could send widespread messages about the protests. We also suggest that the protests were animated by an almost paradoxical mix of threat-from legislative action against undocumented immigrants and anti-Latino or anti-immigrant sentiment more generally-and faith in the political system. Perhaps for this reason, there is evidence that some of the energies animating the 2006 street protests became channeled into 2008 electoral participation. These dynamics, if accurate, reinforce social movement scholars' argument about the importance of organizations for contentious politics. However, they challenge the idea that, for mobilization, social movements need openings in the political opportunities structure-2006 was more about threat than opportunity-and they challenge hard and fast distinctions between contentious and electoral political engagement.
The 2006 protests were remarkable in another way: they focused on, and were in substantial part animated by, people without citizenship in the political system they challenged. Most studies of formal politics take for granted the citizen-actor, an individual who holds political rights and who may act independently, as a voter, or in a collective, as part of a civic association, political party, or interest group. Those who are foreign-born, particularly those without citizenship and especially those without legal residence, are absent from standard, institutional accounts of political engagement.
Noncitizens also tend to be absent from studies of social movements. Social movement scholars devote their energies to studying the political actions of those who, in the classical language of social movements, are "challengers," forced to engage in contentious action because they see few opportunities in the formal political system (Tilly 1978). This characterization perfectly suits noncitizens' activities, yet the assumption undergirding most studies of social movements is one of the protesting citizen. Protesters might have second-class citizenship, as was the case for African Americans, but they are nationals of the countries where they advocate for change. They can be jailed, attacked, and obstructed in their protest activities, but they cannot generally be thrown out of the country altogether. This is the case for a noncitizen migrant.
In the United States, an estimated 11 to 12 million unauthorized migrants lived in the country in 2006, and another 14 million noncitizen legal residents-from international students to permanent residents who have made the United States home for decades-face an additional form of repression not seen in most social movements. They can be summarily removed from the society in which they are protesting and be deported, ripping families apart and tearing a person away from his or her livelihood and community. What would possess people who have everything to lose by coming out into the limelight to march, even though the cost could be permanent and definitive exclusion? Noncitizens are invisible from most political struggles in the United States, but the 2006 protests rendered them visible.
The language of visibility-what worked to frame these individuals' struggles, and what didn't-deserves careful attention. Our preliminary conclusion is that the most successful framing of the movement centered on American values of family and work: immigrants are members of families and hard workers who do not deserve to be seen or treated like deportable criminals. In contrast, frames that hinted at foreignness, such as appeals to home-country pride, America's immigration history, or even human rights, found limited traction in the court of public opinion and mainstream media coverage of the protests. The American public, it seems, need immigrants to make appeals to their Americanism. From the viewpoint of some contributors to this volume, the 2006 rallies also mark a crystallization of a new Latino identity that brings together multiple generations whose roots in the United States might date from a few years to more than a century.
In the remainder of this chapter, we provide some background to the events of 2006, and we make the case for why the immigrant rights rallies offer an important lens onto critical questions of citizenship, social movements, politics, and identity. We sketch out key ways to understand the protests and highlight the various institutions and processes involved in this moment of mass mobilization. We then take a step back and ask about the consequences of the protests, for American politics and for immigrants and Latinos in the United States, as well as for academic scholarship within sociology, political science, and related disciplines. In doing so, we highlight the contributions of the other chapters in this volume, which address the question of why and how the protests occurred as well as their consequences for the future. In a world where globalization has spurred dramatic increases in the number of international migrants, even as immigration policies grow more restrictive in many places, the practical and theoretical issues raised by the 2006 protests present pressing dilemmas for scholars and citizens around the world.
Background: The Events of 2006
The immediate catalyst of the 2006 spring protest wave was the passage of the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, also known as H.R. 4437, on December 16, 2005. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, first introduced the bill on December 6; ten days later it passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 239 to 182. The bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost almost $2 billion dollars between 2006 and 2010 alone, counted among its provisions a substantial investment in border security, including almost seven hundred miles of double-layer fencing, increasingly high-tech document control, more cooperation between the Department of Homeland security and local law enforcement, and stiffer penalties for employers hiring illegal migrants. Even in the context of greater congressional concern over security and border control in a post-September 11 environment, the bill was widely perceived as draconian, in no small part because it would make living in the United States without valid legal documentation a crime rather than the civil offence it currently is. The provision would have not only criminalized anyone who committed an immigration violation, even a technical one without intent to violate the immigration laws, but it also threatened to criminalize anyone who assisted illegal aliens, including those working for religious, humanitarian, or social justice organizations that might offer legal aid, social welfare, or sanctuary to people without proper documents.
Passage of H.R. 4437 sent ripples of anxiety through immigrant rights, union, and religious networks across the country. By February 11, 2006, roughly five hundred Latino leaders from labor unions, churches, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and universities met in Riverside, California, to plan a nationwide series of protests (see Wang and Winn, this volume). These activists wanted to influence the expected spring debate over immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate.
The ripples rapidly grew in amplitude and began to be visible to the wider public. The first wave of protests reported in the media occurred between February 14 and 22 in Philadelphia, Georgetown, Delaware, and Fort Myers, Florida, drawing between 1,000 and 5,000 participants. On March 1, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles used his Ash Wednesday address-a choice that was a striking religious and symbolic message-to call on Catholics and other concerned citizens to defy H.R. 4437 should it become law. The wave of protests then grew at a furious pace, with 20,000 to 40,000 rallying in Washington DC on March 6, followed by a massive demonstration of 100,000 to 300,000 protesters in Chicago on March 10. The storm of immigrant rights rallies had begun.
Upwards of 260 separate demonstrations occurred in the subsequent two months, with most clustering around three distinct time periods: March 23-31, April 9 and 10, and May 1. Table 1.1 highlights the largest twenty demonstrations that occurred between March 23 and May 1, 2006. Eight of these rallies attracted at least 100,000 participants, with perhaps half to three-quarter million people marching in the streets of Chicago and Los Angeles on May 1. The symbolism of May 1 might have been lost on some American observers, but the date is highly significant: currently known as International Workers' Day, this day of labor protest and celebration of workers' rights originated in the United States with the Haymarket Riots of 1886 in Chicago. The theme of work, and the economic contributions made by immigrant workers regardless of legal status, was a prominent theme on placards held by demonstrators and in speeches addressed to the marchers. As one banner said, "We are workers, not criminals!" (Reid 2006).
The wave of protests also spread to new places not historically known for activism around immigrant rights or, for that matter, not known as places of migration at all. During the spring of 2006, demonstrations occurred in towns large and small across the South and Midwest. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Fort Meyers, Florida, and in Atlanta, while smaller rallies occurred across the Carolinas, in Tennessee, as well as in rural Nebraska and Kansas. For example, Schuyler, Nebraska, a small town of 5,300 souls, saw 3,000 people rally for immigrant rights (Wang and Winn, this volume). The broad geographic scope of the demonstrations, shown in figure 1.1, reflected the new and growing dispersion of immigrants, and especially Latino migrants, throughout the United States (Singer 2004a; Zúñiga and Hernández-Léon 2005; Massey 2008).
As with many powerful storms, this one died quickly, at least from the public eye. Indeed, the demobilization of the marchers was as dramatic as their mobilization. Few rallies of substantial size occurred in the months and years following May 2006. The immediate goal of many marchers-to kill H.R. 4437-succeeded. The Senate refused to consider the legislation. But the marchers failed to spur more proactive legislation. On May 26, 2006, the Senate passed S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration and Reform Act, which would have created a path to legalization for undocumented migrants, but the bill died and alternative bills during the summers of 2006 and 2007 suffered a similar fate. At the time of this writing, in spring 2010, there still has been no comprehensive immigration reform. President Barack Obama has signaled an interest in pushing for such a bill, but responding to the severe economic recession, foreign policy, and health-care reform have taken center stage early in his administration.
Placing Spring 2006 in Historical Context
Just as no one predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, no scholar or political commentator predicted the scale and scope of the spring 2006 protests. With the benefit of hindsight, however, we can identify a number of precedents, including Chicano, worker, sanctuary movement, and immigrant rights activism, which laid the groundwork for 2006.
Legacies of Activism
"Latinos"-ranging from Spanish speakers of Spanish heritage to those of mixed or largely indigenous background born in the Spanish-speaking Americas-have lived in what is the United States since before the country's independence. Substantial incorporation of Latinos only occurred, however, with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. The treaty ceded significant proportions of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming, as well as all of California, Nevada, and Utah, to the United States, and it forced Mexico to recognize the Rio Grande as the border between Texas and Mexico. In 1850, an estimated 80,000 Mexican Americans lived in the U.S. Southwest, accounting for about 20 percent of the region's population (Nostrand 1975). Although the border was relatively open and unpoliced in this period, migration of Mexicans to the United States was modest. According to official records, 728,000 Mexican moved to the United States between 1901 and 1930 (Bean and Stevens 2003, 49). These migrants, combined with people born in the United States of Mexican heritage, accounted for the 1,423,000 Mexican-origin individuals living in the United States in 1930 (Bean and Stevens 2003, 53). This number would decrease over the subsequent two decades as older generations passed away, new migration was reduced by economic depression and war, and the United States forcibly returned hundreds of thousands of people to Mexico.
Despite significant cases of discrimination and strong anti-Latino sentiment in the Southwest in the early twentieth century-including the forced deportation of anywhere between 350,000 and 2 million Mexican immigrants and U.S. citizen Mexican Americans during the Great Depression-there are few accounts of large-scale Latino collective action until the 1960s (Gómez-Quiñones 1990; Balderrama and Rodriguez 1995). In 1929, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was formed in Corpus Christi, Texas, the nation's oldest Hispanic advocacy organization still in existence today. In the ten years following World War II, Mexican American activists, working through organizations like LULAC and veterans' associations, won a number of important legal battles, including the landmark 1954 ruling Hernandez v. State of Texas, which declared Mexican Americans entitled to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (M. T. García 1989). Few of these efforts involved mass protest or contentious political action.
What many call the Chicano civil rights movement originated in the 1960s, drawing inspiration from the black civil rights movement. The Chicano movement encompassed three streams. One stream centered on the struggle of the United Farm Workers (UFW), founded in California's Central Valley in 1962 and composed of Mexican, Mexican American, and Filipino migrant farmworkers who used nonviolent direct action to agitate for the right to organize and earn a living wage. At its height, the UFW unionized thousands of farmworkers and recruited and trained hundreds of community organizers and activist leaders. It also reinvigorated social movement tactics like the boycott and hunger strike, and as a result won the passage of the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the only law protecting the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers in the continental United States (Ganz 2009; Shaw 2008).
The second stream was the Chicano nationalist movement, which started in Denver and New Mexico and was committed to etching a new collective understanding of the once-pejorative term Chicano. It also fought for the property rights guaranteed to Mexican citizens living in the Southwest when the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Chicano nationalist movement drew many with its push for political and social inclusion and it helped to spark an artistic renaissance, yet its efforts to unify Mexican Americans around a single collective identity proved an elusive goal.
The third stream was the Chicano student movement, which erupted in 1968 when East Los Angeles high school students walked out of their schools. Though student protests were especially visible in California, they also occurred in Texas and New Mexico as well as in Phoenix, Chicago, and Denver. The student blowouts, as they were called, involved thousands of Chicano students protesting against their crumbling schools and the failure of the public education system to reflect their experiences in course material and teaching staff (C. Muñoz 1989; Gómez-Quiñones 1990).
From the context of 2006, two important points stand out about the 1960s period. First, the activism of that time largely revolved around the concerns and aspirations of U.S.-born citizens of Mexican or Chicano heritage. These protests were not about immigration. The United Farm Workers, as a union, took stances hostile to immigration in the 1960s and early 1970s. Frustrated at the refusal of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to stop growers from bringing in undocumented immigrants to do the jobs of striking union members, Cesar Chavez testified before Congress in support of employer sanctions in 1966 for those employing illegal immigrants and endorsed tough immigration restrictions proposed in Congress in 1973. Although Chavez later became a strong supporter of immigrant rights (his anti-immigrant stance might more accurately be characterized as "antistrikebreaker"), in its heyday, UFW activism was not focused on immigration (Shaw 2008). Similarly, students agitating for a Chicano curriculum and Latino teachers appealed to the long-standing history of Mexican Americans in the United States, not the plight of new migrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. In 1970, only 17 percent of the total U.S. Mexican-origin population was born in Mexico; more than four in five were U.S.-born citizens (Bean and Stevens 2003, 54).
A second lesson, however, is that the movements of the 1960s forged a generation of activists who learned to organize, protest, and mobilize people for a cause, and the earlier period provides a historical touchstone to which contemporary activists can appeal. We have some evidence that those active in the UFW and student movement during the 1960s later shifted their energies and organizational skills to take on the issues of immigrants, including the undocumented. In his contribution to this volume, Randy Shaw contends that there is a direct link between the young activists in the UFW and the contemporary immigrant rights movement in Los Angeles, a link also hinted at in this volume's chapters by Ted Wang and Robert Winn and by Luisa Heredia. Lisa Martinez's chapter on Denver alludes to the symbolic importance of the 1960s era for today's activists, reminding us that Denver was home to Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales's Crusade for Justice in 1966. The Chicano movement and UFW also inspired other activists, such as those who mobilized for Puerto Rican rights and independence in the 1960s and 1970s (Torres and Velasquez 1998), generating organizational activism and norms of contentious political engagement up to the present.
Some of those active in these decades also became involved in the sanctuary movement of the 1980s, a concerted mobilization by churches and other groups to assist Central Americans fleeing civil war and to speak out against U.S. foreign intervention in the region (Chinchilla, Hamilton, and Loucky 2009; Coutin 1993; C. Smith 1996b). The sanctuary movement, and the broader Central American peace and solidarity movement of which it was a part, also mobilized new activists, including middle-class Americans with no personal experience with migration. These people, spurred on by humanitarian concern over the fate of Central American migrants, and also often by political views opposing President Reagan's policy in Central America, engaged in a concerted program of civil disobedience. They created various refugee and immigration organizations in the process, built transnational ties to activists in Central America, and adopted religious understandings to frame their actions. All of these activities would find parallels, though in new ways, during the protests of 2006.
Contemporary Migration and Recent Anti-Immigrant Politics
If the 1960s focused on the U.S.-born Hispanic, and the 1980s on Central Americans fleeing political conflict, today's activism centers on the Latino migrant, especially the undocumented. The shift in focus arose in large part due to the dramatic change in the Latino and Mexican-origin populations that occurred around 1970, as one wave of semiregulated temporary Mexican migration ended and the contemporary wave of diverse, large-scale legal and unauthorized Latino migration began.
The first postwar wave of migration began in 1942, when the U.S. government began what would be called the Bracero Program, a series of agreements with Mexico and Caribbean countries to import temporary foreign labor to fill war-related employment shortages, especially in the agriculture and railway sectors. From 1942 to 1964, when the program was formally ended, approximately 4.6 million Mexican-born workers came to the United States through official or informal channels (Calavita 1992; Tichenor 2002, 210). The Bracero Program instituted a pattern of temporary, cyclical migration, largely of male laborers, on which U.S. agricultural interests came to rely. It also generated a "culture of migration" (Kandel and Massey 2002; Massey et al. 1998) that established a norm of migration to "el Norte" for certain Mexican communities. The end of this program laid the groundwork for contemporary, large-scale undocumented migration (Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002).
Despite bracero migration, in 1970 those born in Mexico only made up about 8 percent of all foreign-born individuals living in the United States, while Latinos (then commonly referred to as Hispanics) numbered about 9.6 million out of a total U.S. population of about 206 million, or 4.7 percent (Bean and Stevens 2003, 22). By 1980, the proportion of Hispanics had increased more than 50 percent; by 1990 the number reached 22.3 million; and by 2000, 37.7 million (Bean and Stevens 2003, 22). High fertility rates among those of Hispanic or Latino origin accounted for part of the rise, but immigration was a major motor: considering just Mexican migration, in 2000 there were 8.8 million Mexican-born individuals living in the United States, who made up about 29 percent of the total immigrant population and also accounted for 41 percent of the Mexican-origin population in the United States (Bean and Stevens 2003, 54).
The dramatic increase in Mexican migration is part of a more general surge in immigration to the United States over the last four decades. In 1965, American immigration law underwent a radical overhaul after Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality (or Hart-Cellar) Act. This act restricted, for the first time, migration from the "Western Hemisphere," which included Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, imposing a ceiling of 120,000 legal permanent resident visas per annum. Conversely, the law removed discriminatory quotas on the rest of the world, or the "Eastern Hemisphere," finally opening the door to large-scale Asian migration. It also opened the door, outside the annual admission ceilings set by Congress, to the spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens.
The 1965 act allowed many people previously shut out of the United States to migrate legally, especially through the use of family sponsorship provisions. Immigrants from around the world, including from Mexico and Latin America, used family reunification to bring relatives to the United States. But the ensuing decades also saw a significant increase in undocumented migration. With the end of the Bracero Program, limited temporary work visas, a new Western Hemisphere ceiling, continued American demand for low-skilled labor, and limited economic development in Latin America, it is not surprising that undocumented migration began to grow.
This trend was exacerbated in the early 1980s when Central Americans, fleeing war and upheaval in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, came to the United States. Central Americans, seen by numerous civil society groups and by themselves as political refugees, were generally viewed by the U.S. government as economic migrants: less than 5 percent had their claims of asylum accepted in the 1980s (M. C. García 2006). Hundreds of thousands, unwilling to go back to war and persecution in their homelands, instead went underground, joining the burgeoning undocumented population. Later, after extended activism by churches, lawyers, and other civil society activists, many received Temporary Protected Status and related designations through special legislation passed by Congress or following the out-of-court settlement of a class action lawsuit that required the federal government to reopen 150,000 asylum cases (known as the ABC case, or American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh). For some, these legislative and judicial victories led to permanent legal status, but others remain in a legal limbo between unauthorized status and legal permanent residence (Menjívar 2000, 2006).
The dramatic upsurge in undocumented migration led in 1986 to the first large-scale U.S. amnesty for those living in the United States without authorization. In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which, depending on one's perspective, was a careful or convoluted compromise between a myriad of political actors and interests. Two main provisions were the introduction, for the first time, of sanctions for employers knowingly hiring undocumented workers and legalization of about three million people, approximately three-quarters of them born in Mexico (Martin 1994). Quickly, however, evidence mounted that IRCA had not eliminated illegal migration. Researchers instead found weak oversight of employers and very little enforcement of IRCA in workplaces (Brownell 2005; Fix 1991). Further, as the U.S. government stepped up efforts to control the southern border through more border control officers, new fencing, and other techniques to deter clandestine entry, the cost of unauthorized border crossing-both financial and human-increased. This impeded historical patterns of circular migration and led families of undocumented migrants to risk deserts, mountains, and other dangerous crossing schemes to join those working-and now staying-in the United States (Cornelius 2001, 2005).
One of the states most heavily affected by migration, both legal and unauthorized, was California, and it is perhaps not surprising that this state would be home to the first volley of the anti-immigrant backlash of the 1990s. In 1994, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187, an initiative to deny illegal immigrants all social services, including health care and public education. Championed by the incumbent Republican governor, Pete Wilson, as a central part of his reelection strategy, the measure was widely perceived as targeting all Latino migrants, not just undocumented, and it sparked the largest mass protests and school walkouts since the Chicano movement, by some estimates spurring 70,000 people into the streets (García Bedolla 2005, 29-31; McDonnell and López 1994). Although the initiative was later overturned by the courts as unconstitutional, its success at the polls emboldened conservative groups even as it spurred higher rates of naturalization, voter registration, and voter turnout among legal Latino immigrants (Pantoja, Ramírez, and Segura 2001; Ramakrishnan 2005). In 1996, some of the same Republican groups that had sponsored Proposition 187 penned Proposition 209, aimed at ending affirmative action in the state, which also won voter approval; then, in 1998, Proposition 227 ended bilingual education in the state, with a resounding 61 percent of the vote.
Although the anti-immigrant backlash began in California, the rapidly growing immigrant population and its spread to all areas of the United States had ripple effects on the national stage. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, two pieces of legislation with far-reaching consequences for migrants, both legal and unauthorized: the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). These laws marked two important turning points in the U.S. government's attitude toward noncitizen migrants: they underscored the importance of citizenship as the only secure protection against removal and exclusion from the United States as well as the only guarantee to social benefits, and they reinforced the marginal status of unauthorized migrants by making them ineligible for most social benefits as well as taking away the ability to appeal immigration decisions.
PRWORA, more commonly known as the Welfare Reform Act, was signed into law first, on August 22, 1996. Its stated purpose was to change the system of federal cash assistance to the poor by instituting lifetime limits to benefits and mandating new work requirements for those receiving benefits. However, an entire section of the act, Title IV, focuses on noncitizens, including legal permanent residents, refugees, and undocumented migrants. The law effectively barred undocumented migrants from most forms of state support and ended a decades-old policy of treating legal permanent residents in the United States as citizens for social benefits like Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, Medicaid, and cash benefits (Singer 2004b). In sharpening the distinction between citizens and noncitizens, the United States bucked an apparent trend in other Western industrialized countries where social benefits depend more on long-term legal residence than citizenship, and where some rights rely on personhood rather than state-based membership through citizenship (Fix and Laglagaron 2002; Soysal 1994).
In parallel, congressional and White House attention to border control increased with IIRIRA, signed into law on September 30, 1996. It authorized substantial new hires of border control officers, new border control technology, and more money for fencing. It severely limited legal recourse against exclusion and deportation for apprehended undocumented migrants and for all noncitizen immigrants, legal or unauthorized, convicted of crimes. The technical and legal nature of the law rendered it largely invisible to the public eye, but among legal experts it was seen as a radical change, leading some to talk about the criminalization of the U.S. immigration system (see, e.g., Emory Law Journal 2002). The trend toward criminalization gained further steam following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, providing a decade-long precedent for the further criminalization of migration proposed under H.R. 4437, the immediate catalyst for the spring 2006 immigration rights protests.
As was the case in California, there is evidence that the federal attack on noncitizens' social and legal rights resulted in increased naturalization and the development of a new generation of immigrant rights activists across the country. Fix, Passel, and Sucher (2003) estimate that after a precipitous drop in immigrant naturalization levels from 64 percent of those eligible in 1970 to 39 percent in 1996, citizenship levels among legal immigrants rose to 49 percent by 2002. The increase was likely fueled by noncitizens' fears over anti-immigrant legislation and facilitated by the greater attention to and funding for naturalization provided by nonprofit organizations and state governments after 1996. We also have piecemeal evidence that, as with the activists of the 1960s, some of the youth politicized by opposing anti-immigrant legislation in the 1990s went on to play a role in the mobilizations of 2006 (Oliver 2006; Wang and Winn, this volume).
Perhaps because of increased activism and growing political incorporation through naturalization, by the new millennium the pendulum on immigration reform seemed to swing away from restrictionism and toward an expansionary moment. For a while in 2000 and in the first eight months of 2001, large-scale immigration reform, including amnesty for the undocumented, appeared possible. The AFL-CIO made a 180-degree turn from its previous hostility to illegal workers to support legalization efforts and to encourage labor organizing among unauthorized workers. In a case of strange political bedfellows, a frequent phenomenon in immigration policy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also supported legalization. Newly elected as president, George W. Bush also signaled he was open to such an agenda, a position reinforced during state meetings with Mexican president Vicente Fox (Thompson 2001; Thompson and Greenhouse 2001).
The political momentum behind legalization died on September 11 as abruptly as the thousands who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. In the months and years following September 11, 2001, the legislative and executive branches drew additional boundaries between U.S. citizens and noncitizens. Noncitizens from specific countries were required to register with the federal government (Broder and Sachs 2002; Sachs 2003); foreigners were detained, without basic rights, at airports (Worth 2002); foreign-born residents were hauled in for questioning by American authorities with scant evidence of any link to foreign terrorists (Toner 2001). The distinction between citizens and noncitizens and between foreigners and the native-born-a distinction already evident in the 1990s-further hardened with the U.S.-led invasions and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet even as immigration reform stalled, the process of demographic change continued. Following a short hiatus immediately after the 2001 terrorist attacks, migration resumed. By 2006, foreign-born residents from all corners of the globe made up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, accounting for 37.5 million people (Migration Policy Institute 2007a). Some of these immigrants live in the United States without authorization (about 29 percent in 2004), while legal foreign-born residents hold diverse statuses-each with different laws and regulations governing them-including naturalized citizen (32 percent), legal permanent resident (29 percent), refugee or asylee (7 percent), or temporary visa holder (3 percent) (van Hook, Bean, and Passel 2005).
The Latino proportion of this immigration is substantial. Forty-seven percent of immigrants reported being Latino or Hispanic in 2006 (Migration Policy Institute 2007a). Latinos are even more heavily represented among the unauthorized population. Demographers calculate that 57 percent of undocumented migrants were born in Mexico and that 24 percent come from Central and South America, suggesting that four of every five unauthorized migrants are Latino (van Hook, Bean, and Passel 2005; Passel 2005). At the same time, these estimates suggest that over 2 million illegal migrants are not Latino, hailing instead from Asia (9 percent of the total), Europe and Canada (6 percent), and Africa (4 percent).
While Latinos make up a significant proportion of all U.S. immigrants, immigrants make up a smaller proportion of the U.S. Latino population. In 2006, the Latino population was estimated to number 44.3 million people, almost 15 percent of the entire U.S. population, a proportion bigger than the non-Hispanic black population in the United States (Pew Hispanic Center 2008). Of this Latino population, those born outside the United States constituted 40 percent, or 17.7 million individuals. By far the largest contingent, 64 percent, was Mexican-origin, but Latino immigrants hail from twenty countries and speak not only Spanish but also dozens of indigenous languages.
The upshot of these statistics is threefold: not all immigrants are Latino, not all Latinos are immigrants, and not all Latino immigrants are undocumented. The U.S. immigrant population is diverse in its origins and its legal statuses, as is the Latino population in the United States. Diversity can serve as a barrier to political action-not all Latinos and not all immigrants necessarily have common interests-and it can impede solidarity under a common identity, be it as "Latino," "immigrant," or something else.
Although all immigrants, regardless of birthplace, are arguably affected in some way by anti-immigrant legislation, the 2006 immigrant rights protests generally did not reflect the full diversity of American immigration. Some activists and protesters were of European, African, or Asian origin, but the vast majority of participants were Latino, and the protests themselves were perceived as a Latino (or even Mexican) issue by much of the mainstream media and even by the ethnic press. Even in Chicago, where the protests appeared to draw a more diverse crowd than elsewhere, 76 percent of the marchers were Latino (Flores-González et al. 2006). A possible consequence of the 2006 marches, argued by Roberto Suro in this volume, is that Latinos of all immigrant generations feel increasing solidarity with each other due to the racialization of Latinos and the overwhelming association in the minds of many between undocumented migration and those of Latino origin.
Understanding the Mobilization Process: What Existing Literatures Do and Do Not Explain
On the eve of the first protests in February 2006, no one-from seasoned political observers to grassroots activists-predicted the magnitude or rapid spread of the immigration protests. This failure suggests that while existing social science frameworks offer some useful explanatory starting points-notably around the concepts of mobilizing structures, frames and identities-they must also be refashioned, especially to account for the participation of large numbers of noncitizens and to disentangle the meaning and implications of new narratives of membership outside formal, legal citizenship.
We focus on two sets of literatures. One literature, on political behavior, studies engagement in the formal political system, such as voting, campaigning, legislative agenda setting, and the like. A second literature, on social movements, views the formal political system as closed to new claims by less powerful actors, necessitating "contentious" or protest activity to effect political and social change. Much of the research on immigrants' political activities in the United States has taken the political behavior approach, while that in Europe tends toward a social movement lens.
Why the difference? Historically, many immigrants in the United States accessed citizenship at relatively high rates, and the children of immigrants were automatically U.S. citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment. In theory, the door to formal politics stood ajar to immigrants and their descendents. Many European countries, in contrast, have had more restrictive naturalization regulations, which, in some cases, also applied to the children and grandchildren of immigrants (Odmalm 2005). Faced with high barriers to citizenship and limited opportunities for formal political participation, European scholars have viewed migrants' mobilization as contentious politics (Koopmans and Statham 2001; Koopmans et al. 2005).
We suggest that U.S. scholarship may need to take a "European" turn. Currently, three out of ten migrants in the United States have no chance at citizenship due to their unauthorized status, and half of those legally able to naturalize have not acquired U.S. citizenship. A social movements approach centered on political "outsiders" is an important path for future theorizing, either in conjunction with or parallel to the established behavioral approach.
What Do We Learn from a Political Behavior Approach?
Much of the political science literature seeks to explain the conditions under which individuals make a decision to participate. It is a useful beginning, if only to showcase how exceptional the protests were. This vast literature can be simplified into three key precepts: individuals act when they are properly motivated to do so; individuals act when they have the means to do so; and individuals act when they are mobilized to do so by political and nonpolitical actors and institutions. None of these three factors, taken in isolation, is a necessary and sufficient condition to participation; but, in the view of political scientists, taken together they explain whether and when political participation occurs.
Prior to 2006, the literature on Latino political participation, or on immigrant political incorporation, painted a portrait of relatively low engagement in civic affairs, formal politics, and contentious politics. Using the sort of mainstream political activities that political scientists regularly monitor, such as voting, writing to an elected official, and contributing to political causes, immigrants of all backgrounds and Latinos of all generations tend to participate less than native-born non-Hispanic whites (Citrin and Highton 2002; DeSipio 1996b; Ramakrishnan 2005). However, much of the participation gap stems from lack of citizenship, a younger age profile, and socioeconomic distinctions. For example, controlling for Latinos' age, citizenship, level of schooling, and income, the participation gap with native-born whites largely disappears. The same applies to contentious activity-attending a rally or participating in a protest-though it is less clear that demographic and socioeconomic controls completely erase the gap between Latinos and whites (Martinez 2005; Ramakrishnan 2005).
The three foundation stones of behavioral political science-motivation, means, and mobilization-do a poor job of explaining the extent and timing of Latinos' collective response to H.R. 4437. When it comes to motivation, political scientists tend to use the language of instrumental reasoning, the careful weighing of probable benefits and potential costs. Yet instrumental reasons rarely account for risky behavior like protest participation. One person's involvement will only make, at best, a minute contribution to the demonstration; a single demonstration will typically make, at best, a minute contribution to the legislative debate on an issue like immigration reform. Given the typical costs of taking time off work, finding transportation to the rally, and the like, each individual is better off not participating: costs outweigh expected benefits. This logic holds especially true for undocumented immigrants, who face the far greater costs of exposure and deportation.
An alternative motivation, namely "solidarity" and "purposive incentives," only partially solves the problem. We can certainly tell a story about the camaraderie benefits of being among 100,000 marchers or the intrinsic benefit of feeling empowered during the protests. In the chapter by Irene Bloemraad and Christine Trost in this volume, they quote an undocumented Latina participant who explained, "I felt a great emotion when the mass of people met. ... They clapped and I felt a great emotion, very nice, because as they were coming over, we were all united." It is unlikely, however, that this woman anticipated her emotional reaction in advance. Solidarity and purposive motivations help us to understand why someone may have taken part in the protests after the fact, but they are a poor predictor or explanation of why protests did not occur earlier, before 2006, or in the years following.
Instead of in motivation, perhaps the answer lies in means. Over several decades, political scientists emphasize the relationship between socioeconomic resources and political participation; study after study demonstrates that individuals with higher income, education, and status are most likely to be politically active (Verba and Nie 1972; Nie, Junn, and Stehlik-Barry 1996; Ramakrishnan 2005). This disproportionate representation of the highly educated and middle class is even true for contentious politics like riots, as studies of the U.S. urban rebellions of the 1960s have shown (Sears and McConahay 1973). A "means" story would predict that 2006 protesters were disproportionately well off. Yet the terms of H.R. 4437 largely affected less well-to-do immigrants in the United States, and news reports and the survey of the Chicago protestors done by Amalia Pallares and Nilda Flores-González in this volume paint a portrait of crowds of many individuals of modest means and education. Officials who spoke at the rallies may have been elites, but those that marched came from many walks of life.
Socioeconomic status is not the only kind of resource that matters. Political scientists distinguish between three kinds of resources-time, money, and civic skills-the latter typically defined as having civic knowledge, cognitive talents, expertise, and being embedded in participatory social networks (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995). Researchers also often write of "group-based" resources-those resources accruing from group-based interests, identities, and institutions-most notably those related to race, ethnicity, and gender (Shingles 1981; Bobo and Gilliam 1990; Tate 1993; Leighley and Vedlitz 1999; Jones-Correa and Leal 2001; Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001; Stokes 2003; Ramakrishnan 2005; J. Wong 2006).
Civic skills and group-based resources are a promising lead in understanding the immigrant rights mobilizations, as evidenced by many chapters in this volume. The idea of civic skills highlights the role of institutions like churches, labor unions, ethnic media, community-based organizations, and other voluntary associations in developing participatory habits and abilities. The idea of group-based resources underscores the power of collective interests and identities-as immigrants, undocumented residents, Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, and so on. Still, from the perspective of a political commentator in 2005, the roles of civic skills and identities were not self-evident. For example, data from a special battery of questions on volunteering in 2002 found that Latinos, and especially Latino immigrants, are less likely to report formal participation in civic organizations than Asian-origin, white, or black residents (Ramakrishnan and Viramontes 2006, 4).
Finally, beyond means and motivation, political engagement also depends on whether you are asked. One study that examined the steep decline in U.S. voter turnout from the 1950s to the 1980s attributed more than 50 percent of the drop-off to declining personalized mobilization by political parties (Rosenstone and Hansen 1993). Political parties have been glaringly absent as institutional loci of immigrants' political incorporation (Jones-Correa 1998; Ramírez 2002; J. Wong 2006), and there may well be incentives for parties not to appeal to the interests of immigrant communities (Fraga and Leal 2004; Kim 2007). If the agents of mobilization are extended to include nonpartisan civic organizations and ethnic media, we have a more plausible explanation. Ignored (or attacked) by formal political actors, we better understand why civil society groups encouraged immigrants and their supporter to take to the streets.
In sum, our accounting of the usefulness of the political behavior framework is mixed. The effectiveness of motivation, means, and mobilization explanations depends on how coarse or fine-grained a view we take. When the three are construed narrowly as material incentives, monetary resources, and partisan mobilization, the immigration protests are unfathomable. When they are construed capaciously-as solidarity and purposive benefits, resources based on civic skills, group interests and identities, and mobilization and recruitment by nonpartisan, immigrant and ethnic-specific institutions-we come closer to some compelling reasons for why a groundswell of immigrants took to the streets in 2006. Scholars working within the political behavior approach are unable to explain the timing, size, and demobilization of the protests.
Social Movements Literature: Contestation and Being an Outsider
If political behavior research is largely about "normal" politics, the premise underlying social movement scholarship is that people have grievances not addressed through formal, regularized channels of participation and representation, necessitating contentious protest. Grievances alone, however, are widely viewed as a very blunt instrument when it comes to explaining whether and when social movements happen: grievances are ubiquitous, but protests are rare. In the case of immigrants, for example, the criminalization of migration accelerated in the 1990s, but grievances only erupted into mass protest in 2006.
If political behavior research can be reduced to a triumvirate, the parallel threesome for scholars of social movements consists of mobilizing structures, political opportunity structures, and framing processes (McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald 1996). Formulated originally to explain the American civil rights movement (McAdam 1999), this conceptual tool kit has been used to elucidate other movements in various historical periods and national contexts, from the women's suffrage movement in Switzerland and the United States to peasant movements in Guatemala and El Salvador (e.g., Banaszak 1996; Brockett 2005). Each factor provides some purchase on the 2006 protests.
Overlapping political scientists' focus on civic associations and their role in mobilization and skill development, social movement scholars recognize the importance of "mobilizing structures." Grievances are translated into collective action, social movement scholars argue, when they are channeled through movement organizations and networks. We similarly believe, and many of our chapters argue, that mobilizing structures provided critical scaffolding for the 2006 immigrant rights rallies. To illustrate the importance of mobilizing structures, we list some of the key types of organizations behind the 2006 protests. In doing so, we highlight some of the contributions from the chapters in the rest of this volume.
The constellation of mobilizing structures in 2006 appears a bit different from many prior social movements. In the case of the immigration protests, as Wang and Winn make clear in their chapter, no set of national organizations played a central leadership role, although Ricardo Ramírez hints that the syndication of some Latino radio shows served a quasinational coordinating role. Traditional Latino civil rights groups with national offices, such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and LULAC, were curiously absent in the initial months of spring 2006, although they later became involved in legislative lobbying around comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. The lack of national centralization, especially in the field of immigration reform, is puzzling. Only the U.S. Congress-rather than state or local governments-has the power to pass laws pertaining to immigration. Even courts are wary about interceding in immigration issues, citing congressional "plenary power" to determine rules of entry and residence.
Yet the empirical cases presented in this book, which include the cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and Richmond, California, clearly document the leadership role played by local groups that came together in varying coalitions (and, sometimes, competitions) to organize the protests. In Chicago, where the first major demonstration took place on March 10, 2006, fifteen or twenty local Latino leaders, representing hometown associations, a local service employees union (SEIU), and an AIDS education community group, rallied to join a local Spanish-language DJ to bring out 100,000 marchers in three short weeks (Fornek 2006; Vargas 2007). In Denver, where the first of three major demonstrations took place two weeks later, the March 25 rally was coordinated by a handful of local groups, including two local immigrant rights groups, the local office of the American Friends Service Committee, a local SEIU union, and the Colorado Catholic Conference (Martinez, this volume). In Las Vegas, walkouts by middle and high school students on Cesar Chavez Day (March 28, 2006) prompted the involvement of several local organizations, including hometown associations, the Culinary Union, and church groups (Vargas 2007), ultimately bringing 63,000 protestors into the streets on May 1, 2006. In some cases, the local orientation of the groups flowed directly from service missions that are naturally centered on specific geographical communities, but in other cases groups were parts of larger networks that, nonetheless, saw leadership primarily at the local rather than national level.
Accounts of the marches almost always note that the high turnouts surprised the local organizers. Their unexpected size and the influence of the Spanish-language media have led some analysts to argue that the demonstrations were a "spontaneous" upsurge rather than organized protest (Vargas 2007; Hing and Johnson 2006). In a similar vein, early scholars of the civil rights movement saw the wave of sit-ins that swept through the South in 1960 as spontaneous. Conventional wisdom at the time claimed that college students in different cities engaged in sit-ins because they were emulating the actions of students elsewhere, rather than because of any coordination by national movement organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) or the NAACP (Killian 1984; Oberschall 1989). Recent work by Andrews and Biggs (2006), however, shows that the sit-ins spread rapidly to places where newspapers provided information about events elsewhere and where there were core groups of local activists who were able to quickly take advantage of publicity without having to wait for approval from national leaders. A similar combination of media coverage and local organization seems to have fueled the rapid spread of immigration protests in the spring of 2006. In doing so, in line with the analysis by Andrews and Biggs, local activists might have been able to capitalize on the sense of being part of something bigger-feeding off others' successes and strategies-without being constrained by dictates from some large, central organization. Unlike in the 1960s, local activists' ability to coordinate and pull off widespread demonstrations also depended, in part, on new technologies. Faxes, text messaging, e-mail, websites, and blogs allow rapid diffusion of information and loose network coordination, as stories of "spontaneous" school walkouts fed by text messaging and cell phones suggest.
It is doubtful, however, that technology alone drove far-flung participation; mobilization usually requires some personal contact. Shaw, in this volume, suggests that the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides of 2003 fed rapid, localized mobilization. Organized by two progressive labor unions, UNITE HERE and the SEIU, and sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides were named after the 1961 Freedom Rides in which young black and white activists rode buses into the Deep South to challenge segregation in public transportation. The 2003 rides largely escaped public notice, but Shaw claims that a key aim, and outcome, was to boost relationships among labor unions, community-based organizations, and religious, student, and immigrant-rights groups in the ninety-three cities and towns where the buses stopped.
Shaw may be right. Figure 1.2 maps out the cities where the Immigration Freedom Rides stopped and overlays this route with the cities where protests occurred in 2006. Nearly two-thirds (62.4 percent) of the cities where the buses stopped in 2003 had protests in the spring of 2006, supporting the claim that the Immigration Freedom Rides helped build the coalitional infrastructure that served as a backbone of the 2006 protests.
If no single national organization drove the 2006 protests, what types of local organizations facilitated the spread of information-about legislative proposals and the protests-and provided sources of leadership, resources, and centers of coordination? The Spanish-language ethnic media clearly played a critical role (Wang and Winn, Ramírez, both in this volume). Ethnic media publicized events, raised awareness about H.R. 4437, and conveyed information about protests across the country. As Hondagneu-Sotelo and Salas put it, "radio shows expanded from purely commercial entertainment venues to constituting nothing less than a big democratic town hall meeting on immigration reform" (2008, 222). A survey of participants in the huge May 1 rally in Chicago found that just over half heard about the march on television and radio (Flores-González et al. 2006, 3). Wang and Winn single out key DJs on Spanish-language radio stations for generating massive turnouts in Chicago and Los Angeles, where their shows originated, but also for mobilizing Spanish-speaking communities across the country in their national broadcasts.
Unions, especially local SEIU and UNITE-HERE affiliates, were key actors in many cities. The groundwork for the union role was laid in the late 1980s when the SEIU created the Justice for Janitors campaign, which brought immigrant janitors into the Los Angeles labor movement and began to change organized labor's attitude toward immigrants (Fantasia and Voss 2004; Milkman 2006). Building on the success of the Justice for Janitors campaign, a number of union activists, especially in California, began to push the AFL-CIO to change its historical opposition to amnesty for unauthorized immigrants and its reluctance to organize immigrants (Hamlin 2008). This campaign came to fruition in 2000 when the AFL-CIO reversed its anti-immigrant stance.
The Catholic Church also played a critical leadership role in some cities. The Church's importance lies, not only in its highly developed organizational infrastructure and the regular contact it has with Catholic parishioners, but also in its ability to invest protest with religious overtones, legitimizing engagement and imbuing it with symbolic meaning. As Luisa Heredia argues in her chapter, the Catholic Church in Los Angeles interwove religious references to holy days in its activities-as when Cardinal Roger Mahony vowed civil disobedience of H.R. 4437 on Ash Wednesday-and the Church used ritual to draw congregants into its activities for immigrant rights. While the use of religious narrative and ritual as a part of social protest also characterized the civil rights movement (Morris 1984; Garrow 2004), the United Farm Workers' movement (Ganz 2000), and the 1980s sanctuary movement (Chinchilla, Hamilton, and Loucky 2009; Coutin 1993), Heredia hints that the twenty-first-century activities of those within the Los Angeles diocese represent a two-decades shift away from a national, legislative orientation to more local contentious engagement. If accurate, this move further highlights the puzzle of increasingly localized contestation around immigration despite a political system where authority for immigration legislation lies with U.S. Congress.
These big three-ethnic media, unions, and the Catholic Church-were joined by a host of smaller community-based organizations in cities and localities across the United States. Long-standing civic rights organization and new immigrant rights organizations were joined by nonprofit social service providers and legal assistance clinics that have sprung up in many cities to offer legal assistance with immigration, deportation and naturalization, translation services, bilingual health outreach, and a gamut of other services for groups that lack the language skills or legal status to access mainstream agencies (Cordero-Guzman 2005; de Graauw 2008). While their tax status as nonpartisan and nonpolitical 501(c)(3) organizations sometimes makes social service agencies reluctant to get involved in politics, the perceived legislative attacks on immigrants from 1996 to 2006 spurred partnerships with civil rights and immigrant rights organizations, as described in the chapters by Wang and Winn, Martinez, and Heredia.
The contributors to this volume also underscore the work done by another set of institutions, not often analyzed in social movement scholarship: families and schools. Pallares and Flores-González draw attention to how discourses around the family-especially the wrenching effects of deporting undocumented parents who have American-born children-galvanized many in Chicago. The discourse on family not only applied to those who rallied for their own extended family members, but it was stretched to talk about the Latino community in familial terms, drawing links between those who have lived in the United States for generations and those who entered recently, becoming a call to civic responsibility and core U.S. values. Such appeals have resonance across the political spectrum, from political conservatives' talk of "family values" to the use of family frames by anti-Reagan activists during the sanctuary movement on the 1980s. Families also provided sites where different generations could talk about the protests and encourage each other to participate. As Bloemraad and Trost show in their chapter, parents used their experiences to make the immigrant rights rallies salient to their children, but children also encouraged parents to participate by bringing back information and excitement from schools and youth networks.
Schools, in particular, mobilized young people in many cities, from Los Angeles and the cities of the San Francisco Bay area to Las Vegas, Denver, and Chicago. Perhaps a quarter of those who walked in 2006, upward of a million marchers, were children and teenagers. It is unclear whether knowledge of the 1960s "blowouts" served as inspiration for the teenagers of 2006, or whether certain teachers in these schools had themselves participated in school-based protests in the 1960s or 1980s, but walkouts by students clearly swelled the numbers of protesters in spring 2006.
One additional mobilizing organization-hometown associations-also requires mention. Hometown associations (HTAs) are small organizations formed by immigrants to raise money for public works and other projects in members' communities of origin as well as to organize social events for those in the United States. Some worry that HTAs reinforce immigrants' ties to their homeland, undercutting engagement in the United States, but there is increasing evidence that HTAs build leadership, skills, and solidarity useful in the American context (Itzigsohn 2000; Viramontes 2008). In 2006, some HTAs provided key support for the marches, especially in Los Angeles and Chicago. As Jonathan Fox and Xóchitl Bada argue in this volume, HTAs are part of a larger binational migrant civil society, building migrants' capacity for self-representation. One could see this transnational activity and its influence on U.S. social movements as a new chapter in the binational activism some argue undergirded the Central American peace and solidarity movement (Perla 2008).
Political Opportunity Structures
Mobilizing institutions clearly matter, but social movement scholars also emphasize the role of political opportunity structures. The essential insight here is that social movement politics are tied to the ebb and flow of regular institutional politics. Eisinger (1973), who first coined the term structure of political opportunities, did so to explain why some American cities experienced riots about race and poverty in the late 1960s and others did not. He found that cities with extensive channels for conventional political participation had no riots, nor did cities that repressed or effectively discouraged dissent. Instead, cities in the middle of the spectrum-between repression and formal access-experienced the most riots.
Scholars have built on Eisinger's work to show that social movements tend to emerge in periods when political opportunities are shifting and especially when they expand, as might happen when divisions develop among elites or when a government's capacity for repression decreases (Tilly 1978; McAdam 1999; Tarrow 1998; Meyer 2004). Most research over the past two decades has emphasized the precipitating effects of political openings and has discounted the triggering effects of political closings. Recently, however, analysts have begun to challenge that consensus by noting that threats and periods of contracting opportunities sometimes spur collective action (Goldstone and Tilly 2001; Tilly and Tarrow 2007).
In the case of the 2006 protests, threat undoubtedly played a larger role than political openings: H.R. 4437 endangered the livelihoods of millions of undocumented immigrants, creating felons out of them as well as anyone who provided them with assistance. Moreover, in 2006, Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, arguably contributing to a feeling of political exclusion and a perception of limited legislative or lobbying options. The sense of political exclusion appeared even more dramatic juxtaposed with the hopefulness that many supporters of immigration reform felt just a few years before, in 2000 and early 2001, when George W. Bush met with Vicente Fox and the AFL-CIO reversed its long-standing opposition to amnesty. By 2006, the sense of threat was palpable, strengthened by the hard reality that undocumented immigrants targeted by H.R. 4437 were unable to vote.
Yet, as tempting as it might be to attribute protest activity simply to the threat of H.R. 4437, this explanation is insufficient if we consider that the same threatening shift in political opportunity structure might have opened the door to other kinds of protests in the early years of the second Bush administration-for example, antiwar, Social Security, environmental politics-yet mass protest did not materialize. Nor did it occur when the welfare system was overhauled in 1996. Reading across the existing analyses of 2006, in this volume and elsewhere, we believe that theoretical advances will require a more nuanced account of how threat and perceptions of threat play into the activities of mobilizing institutions.
For example, nuanced analysis of threat dynamics might help explain the disjuncture between federal policy and local activism. The "closed" arena of federal immigration politics, juxtaposed with the increasing spread of immigration across cities and towns throughout the United States, might help explain why immigration politics-either liberal or restrictive-are increasingly local. Some cities, from Oakland, California, to Takoma Park, Maryland, have formally proclaimed that they and their police forces refuse to work with immigration authorities to identify undocumented migrants. Other localities, epitomized by legislation and litigation involving Hazelton, Pennsylvania, have vowed to fight undocumented migration by enacting ordinances directed against unauthorized residents.
The particular threat embodied in H.R. 4437 might also have fostered stronger partnerships between immigrants and sympathetic allies than prior legislation. The proposed Sensenbrenner legislation not only targeted the undocumented but also all those who assisted them. The broad threat of this legislation likely propelled some Americans working behind the scenes for migrants' rights to trade backroom politics for the glare of television lights.
Finally, it is worth noting an interesting paradox highlighted by two chapters in this volume. Street-level protests are frequently taken as an indicator that "regular politics" is not working or that people are alienated from the political system. In such contexts, the threat of violence and mass disruption is, according to one social movement approach of long pedigree, the fundamental weapon of the weak and marginalized (Piven and Cloward 1978). Yet Roberto Suro's chapter recalls the peacefulness of the demonstrations and the absence of any palpable anger among the marchers. According to Suro, this reveals an enduring optimism among Latinos about the potential of American society to reverse discrimination and processes of racialization, an argument echoed in the chapter by Francisco Pedraza, Gary Segura, and Shaun Bowler. Pedraza and colleagues contend that participation in the marches reflects Latinos' faith in the U.S. political system rather than their disillusionment.
The third linchpin of social movement explanations is the process of framing and storytelling that transforms grievances into "collective action frames." These entail the verbalization of unjust conditions, the development of a sense that things can be changed, the identification of a collective actor to pursue change, and the call for change in the public arena. Identity and framing processes cannot be taken as given in the study of contentious politics around immigration (Koopmans et al. 2005). As we underscored earlier, multiple collective identities exist among immigrants and Latinos, shaped by the varying self-definitions that immigrants bring to the United States and by the national identity of the majority population. Identities need to be salient to those characterized as a group, and they must be recognized and acknowledged by those outside the group in order to carry political weight. In the case of immigration politics, both parts of this dynamic are in flux.
As a group identity, immigrant has had relatively limited saliency, Latino somewhat more, but the latter is still hotly contested. As Lee (2008) points out, analysts cannot assume that individuals who share a demographic label, be it Latino, Asian American, or Arab American, share an identification with the label, share common political goals, or have an interest in acting together to pursue them. Activists influenced by the Chicano movement in the late 1960s were especially opposed to a pan-ethnic "Latino" identity until recently (J. Rodriguez 1998). On policy toward the undocumented, D. Gutiérrez (1995) documents widespread disagreement among Mexican Americans, historically and into the 1990s. A range of studies reveal deep divisions based on country of origin and cultural traditions in defining "Latinos," much less giving content to a unifying pan-Latino identity (Padilla 1985; Lopez and Espiritu 1990; L. K. Somers 1991; Calderon 1992; Portes and Macleod 1996).
In this context, an important question is whether the protests in 2006 were possible because they built on an already growing sense of common fate and solidarity among participants, or if instead they created a new sense of shared identity and collective interest. Suro, in his chapter, draws on public opinion polls to argue that the marches grew out of an emergent sense of common identity and ethnic solidarity first discernable in 2002 and 2004. Growing Latino unity, Suro suggests, built on a "broad and growing perception" that Latino advancement was being thwarted by discrimination. The sense of discrimination, Suro argues, increases every time immigration restrictions are debated. Placed in a longer historical context, this implies that policies like California's Proposition 187 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, although targeted at noncitizens, are read by a growing number of native-born and citizen Latinos as part of a racialization process, generating a sense of common fate that contributed to mass participation in 2006.
In the chapter on the Chicago protests, Pallares and Flores-González also argue that the immigration policies of the mid-1990s created a shared sense of injustice, but they emphasize the specific effects of deportations and family separations triggered by these policies. Support for family unity emerged as a new collective action frame and as a common referent connecting undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and the wider Latino community. For protestors who had at least one undocumented family member, the family unity frame packed an obvious emotional punch. But it also motivated those who had no undocumented kin, as the notion of "family" was redefined to include "my people." Pallares and Flores-González show, moreover, that this frame evolved into a critique of U.S. democracy for not valuing all families equally.
As the discussion by Pallares and Flores-González hints, the critique of U.S. democracy hinges on the appeal to a presupposed universal American value of family. This highlights the second part of any equation around identity work and framing: not only do identities and frames need to make sense to participants and sympathizers, they also need to resonate with opponents and the uncommitted. To the extent that politics is fought in part in the court of public opinion, frames and identities must have saliency and find purchase in the minds of those outside the movement.
One conclusion we draw from the 2006 protests is that more successful framing strategies appealed to bedrock American values: family and work. Appeals to America's experience with immigration, to immigrants' home-country pride or, even to human rights stood out as too "foreign"; such discourses found little purchase and often significant mainstream opposition.
The dance of collective action framing comes out most starkly in Martinez's chapter on Denver. Martinez reports that the frame of family reunification as an American value was evident in the Colorado protests. As one activist told her, "We're reclaiming the American flag ... you can't say this is un-American because we're saying family reunification is about American values." Yet Martinez suggests that the link between flag and family emerged in Colorado partly in reaction to hostility from anti-immigrant activists. In the first major demonstration in Denver, on March 25, protesters framed their actions in terms of a common immigrant experience: they, like earlier generations of Americans, were hard-working people who had come to the United States for a better way of life. But because protesters carried Mexican flags as well as American flags, and they clutched signs written in Spanish as well as English, anti-immigrant activists were able to foment a backlash against the marchers, painting them as "lawbreaking criminals unwilling to assimilate." Portrayed as anti-American, organizers scrambled to reframe their claims to appeal to American values.
Martinez's chapter highlights the ways in which the development of political claims is an interactive process. Between the first protests in March 2006 and the final ones in May, it became clear that homeland pride had little legitimacy in mainstream American public discourse. Worse, it made the protesters easy targets in the framing war as disloyal and foreign, inherently anti-American. Protest organizers got the message. After the March protests, a sea of American flags drowned out Mexican flags, not only in Colorado but across the nation.
The flag and framing wars reveal the complexities faced by those who protest in the name of noncitizens. The civil rights movement highlighted how African Americans (and Chicanos, Asian Americans, and American Indians) held "second-class" citizenship in their country. Demands for political change and calls for action rested on the appeal of full citizenship: to live up to the country's democratic values and the promise of the American dream, all Americans had to be given the chance and tools to access that dream.
The situation of noncitizen immigrants, and especially the unauthorized, is fundamentally different. The counternarrative, employed by those opposed to the immigrant rights movement, equates the act of being in the United States without proper documentation with un-Americanism: the unauthorized are breaking the law, not waiting their turn in the immigration queue, and, consequently, they prove themselves unfit for membership and citizenship. Appeals to inclusion are, prima facie, illegitimate because these people are illegitimate (Vargas 2007). Immigrants and their allies understand this counternarrative, as reflected in the many signs brandished by protesters that proclaimed, "We are not criminals."
Another narrative that fluttered on banners and was broadcast on loudspeakers centered on the economic contributions of immigrants. Such a frame sidesteps legal citizenship by underscoring another type of membership: as workers and consumers in the American economy. Highlighting the economic contribution of immigrants became a key tactic of some activists and led to debates and divisions over the advisability of calling on immigrants to engage in walkouts and boycotts. Those supporting economic frames appealed to a deep, historical theme of U.S. citizenship: membership occurs through one's ability to work. As Shklar has argued (1991), earning and controlling one's labor is not just about social rights but also about social standing, a source of public respect throughout American history. Highlighting immigrants' economic contributions shifted migrants' membership claims away from formal legal status, but it also fed into long-standing cultural and political notions of being a "good" American.
Conceptually, the idea of "discursive opportunity structures" is helpful in thinking through these dynamics. Discursive opportunities influence which collective identities and substantive demands have a higher likelihood of gaining visibility in the media, resonating with other actors, and achieving legitimacy in public discourse (Koopmans et al. 2005, 19). At this juncture, frames and identities rooted in work, family, and minority racialization appear to have some saliency in the American context, and they represent framing strategies or identity work that seek to displace notions of illegitimacy, foreignness, or being an "alien," both legally and socially. Ominously, from the perspective of immigrant rights activists, all three approaches are rooted in and rely on a discursive opportunity structure that celebrates a particular notion of being or acting "American." This makes it easy for those opposed to unauthorized (or even legal) immigrants to label them as "others": noncitizens and non-Americans who have no rights.
How might immigration advocates circumvent the centrality of Americanism as a discursive template? The most expansive alternative would be a call for human rights or human security: citizenship becomes secondary as humanity provides a common bond and the basis on which to give rights. Pushed further, one could argue, in line with Carens (1987), that no one chooses their country of birth, so why not allow people to equalize their life chances by giving them access to stable, richer societies? Research in Europe and Japan purports to find that appeals to human rights offer powerful discursive and legal strategies to advance immigrant rights (Bauböck 1994; Gurowitz 1999; Soysal 1994; but see Koopmans et al. 2005). In the United States, Sassen (2006) has argued that a human rights frame might be the best way to understand claims making in the 2006 marches. At this juncture, however, despite banners sporting slogans like "No human being is illegal," the available evidence suggests that human rights discourses failed to resonate with the American public and did little to advance a political project around comprehensive immigration reform.
In sum, drawing on political behavior and social movement scholarship, three key findings and concepts stand out to help make sense of the 2006 immigrant rights protests. First, local civil society groups such as unions, churches, ethnic media, advocacy organizations, and even schools and transnational hometown associations laid the groundwork undergirding the protests. We now need to better understand coalition building and the preconditions for a supportive, pro-immigrant groundwork in some places compared to others. Second, perceptions of threat and a closed political opportunity structure served to mobilize people in spring 2006. We need, however, further work on how perceptions of threat mobilized vulnerable populations without destroying all hope that political action could resolve perceived problems. Third, immigration politics cannot be understood outside the discursive contestation over identities and frames, which takes place within its own opportunity structure. We need further analyses of how identities and frames facilitated the 2006 protests and, perhaps more importantly, how they became recrafted during the movement. Did such reconstructions have any long-term effects, for example, by providing a starting point for identity appeals and collective action frames in subsequent years? It is to these consequences that we now turn.
Repression, Countermobilization, and the Consequences of 2006
The social movements literature is often more about origins than the subsequent development and fate of movement activism; much of our discussion thus far follows that trend. We have focused on finding conceptual tools to explain why, despite many anti-immigrant legislative actions from the 1980s through the 1990s, massive protest activity occurred in 2006, and how it was possible for this to occur. With the distance of time, however, another central puzzle for academics and activists is to understand the consequences of 2006. Why has so little mass mobilization for immigrant rights taken place since 2006? What effect did the protests have on politics and elections in the ensuing years? Here it is useful to distinguish between the response of civil society actors and the response of government and legislators.
Social movement scholars who examine interaction dynamics behind the rise and decline of protest point especially to the consequences of repression and countermobilization (e.g., Andrews 2004; Davenport, Johnston, and Mueller 2005; Meyer and Staggenborg 1996; Voss 1996; Zald and Useem 1987). As we have already noted, those opposed to amnesty and in favor of strong border control portrayed undocumented immigrants as lawbreakers and un-American. Yet while those opposed to the immigration protests often had their views reflected in the media, the number of counterdemonstrations was sparse and poorly attended. This was true even in Denver, which, as Martinez notes in her chapter, has the distinction of being "ground zero" for the anti-immigrant movement.
We also find little evidence that the protests had a strong effect on overall public opinion-in support or in opposition-during the spring of 2006. There is some evidence of sympathy for protestors: a Democracy Corps poll first conducted in late April 2006, then again in late May, found a slight increase in the number of respondents reporting that the marches made them "more sympathetic" to the plight of immigrants, 62 percent by the second survey. Yet public opinion also appeared to turn more restrictive on border control. Two Time magazine polls show a modest move toward more restrictive views, from 74 percent of respondents agreeing that the United States was not "doing enough to secure borders" in January 2006 to 82 percent in a late March poll. Following a similar line of questioning, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll reported in April that 55 percent of Americans favored the use of the U.S. military to secure the border, a proportion that increased slightly by early June 2006 to 63 percent support. Ordinary Americans, at first blush, were not sure what to make of the sea of white shirts across the United States, neither reacting viscerally against the protestors, nor embracing their cause.
However, a broad sketch of the nation's reaction obscures significant local variations. There is some evidence that, in towns and areas where local residents had not given immigration much thought, the protests generated, in the medium term, increased hostility as residents suddenly became aware of significant numbers of migrants in their midst. For example, in Nebraska, the protests helped lay the groundwork for a nascent network of Latino civic organizations, but they also spurred the creation or expansion of anti-immigrant groups (Benjamin-Alvarado, DeSipio, and Montoya 2009). Such dynamics bring to mind the literature on "group threat" or "group position," which argues that when previously subordinate minority populations begin to challenge the status quo, majority members react to the perceived threat against their status position with increased prejudice and political hostility (e.g., Bobo and Tuan 2006). Such local responses are clearly an area for future research.
The consequences of the 2006 protests must also be understood in the reaction of government and legislators. In the short term, protestors won an important victory: H.R. 4437 failed, and those in Congress who favored increased border security took the criminalization of undocumented migrants off the table. During the rallies themselves, local police and federal immigration enforcement officers did not attempt to verify the immigration status of marchers, nor did they take immediate retaliatory action against marchers by engaging in mass deportations or preventing the rallies, a situation strikingly different from Southern police response to civil rights marchers in the 1950s and 1960s.
Yet, in the medium term, from summer 2006 to the end of the Bush presidency in January 2009, one can discern a pattern of blocked legislative progress and stepped-up immigration enforcement, which have acted to repress further organizing. In Congress, groups pushing for more restrictive immigration policies have successfully opposed any sort of amnesty; efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform failed in 2007, just as they did in 2006 (see DeSipio, this volume). Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids increased significantly in the wake of the protests, at workplaces, residences, and even in front of schools. Official figures show a sharp increase in deportations in both 2007 and 2008. In 2008, 358,866 individuals were expelled from the United States, over 100,000 more than the number of people removed in 2005, the year before the protests (Office of Immigration Statistics 2010, 4). Big raids on meatpacking plants in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin netted hundreds of undocumented workers, who were quickly deported. The raids also showcased a new enforcement strategy by ICE: for the first time federal officials used identity theft and forgery laws to charge undocumented immigrants with felonies.
Such enforcement tactics have had a chilling effect on many would-be protestors, in part explaining the rapid demobilization of the movement following spring 2006. The lack of further protests also stems from the type of organizations that initially facilitated the protests. For some organizations, such as schools, churches, hometown associations, and ethnic media, protest activity is peripheral to their primary mission and thus they are poorly equipped to support a long-term social movement for immigrant rights. The organizations that were of a type that might sustain a movement, such as advocacy and immigrant rights organizations, tended to be smaller, with limited funding. While such organizations continue their activities into the present, the immigrant rights movement also has, like many other social movements, been divided by strong internal disagreements about tactics and goals, a conflict touched on in Heredia's chapter. An especially strong fissure, in 2006 and today, is between those national advocacy groups and some progressive unions willing to engage in a left-right compromise that might include enforcement provisions and local grassroots groups opposed to such trade-offs (Cho 2008).
Indeed, it is at the local level that political contestation around immigration has been most strongly felt in recent years. This can occur through local legislation or the activities of local anti-immigrant organizations like the Minutemen Project, which place ordinary citizens on the border to report undocumented border crossings. Meyer and Staggenborg (1996) point out that in federal political systems like in the United States, where power is divided between national and subnational governments, social movement conflict can be prolonged as movements and countermovements switch venues in their search for advantageous political opportunity structures. This has clearly happened in the conflict over immigration policy. Although Congress has plenary power over immigration policy, the political stalemate in Washington has pushed the struggle over policy to the state and local arenas. In the immediate aftermath of the protests of 2006 and the failure of H.R. 4437, no fewer than 1,059 pieces of immigration-related legislation were introduced in state legislatures, and 167 of those became law in 2007, more than double the number of immigration-related laws enacted in all of 2006 (Laglagaron et al. 2008). The battle in municipalities is even more intense as some communities have begun to compete to pass laws that will make them either like Hazelton, Pennsylvania, where the mayor brags that it is "one of the toughest places in the United States for illegal immigrants," or like Hightstown, New Jersey, with its pro-immigration sanctuary laws.
From a social movement perspective, the rapid demobilization and poor showing at subsequent May 1 marches raises questions about whether we can talk about an immigration rights movement, a word that implies sustained activity and participation. But such doubts make sense only if we concentrate on street protests. Local political battles over immigration blur the boundaries between "regular" and "contentious" politics. Indeed, the battle over immigrant rights is also occurring at polling stations. Noncitizen immigrants cannot vote, but they can encourage their citizen family members, friends, and neighbors to cast ballots with immigration issues as a deciding factor, as can Latinos with no immigrant family members, if they equate anti-immigrant attacks with anti-Latino attacks. Strikingly, as Louis DeSipio enumerates in his chapter, politicians who ran on strong anti-immigrant platforms did poorly in the 2008 elections. Similarly, a significant proportion of the immigration-related bills introduced in state legislatures in 2007 sought to expand immigrants' rights and access to services (313 bills); such bills were passed at higher rates (19 percent) than bills that sought to contract immigrants' rights or that dealt with law enforcement (11 percent) (Laglagaron et al. 2008).
Can we take these electoral and legislative outcomes as evidence of Latino or immigrant power in the formal political system? Will contentious politics be abandoned as the formal political system accommodates new demands around immigrant rights? This conclusion is hinted at in the chapter by Pedraza, Segura, and Bowler, who document Latinos' faith in the U.S. political system. Indeed, exit poll data from the 2008 presidential election suggest a slight increase in Latino turnout, providing some support for protestors' claims that "Today we march, tomorrow we vote!" In 2008, 9 percent of voters self-identified as Latino, an increase from 8.4 percent in 2004. A 0.6 percent change may, in itself, seem small, but in raw numbers it represents an estimated 1.6 million new Latino voters in 2008. The mobilization of Latino voters in 2008 is even more impressive in several key battleground states with large Hispanic populations. In New Mexico, for instance, Latinos were 32 percent of voters in 2004 and 41 percent in 2008. Similarly, in Colorado and Nevada, the proportion of that state's voters who were Latino jumped from 8 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2008 and from 10 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2008, respectively. The strong Republican showing in the 2010 midterm elections suggests, however, a new anti-immigrant turn among non-Latino voters and politicians.
There is also evidence that the Latino electorate is moving more strongly to the Democratic ticket and to a more uniform position on immigration issues. Such a shift could increase Latinos' voice by consolidating an "ethnic bloc," to which Democrats, in particular, would need to listen. In 2004, roughly 53 percent of Latinos reported voting for the Democratic Party nominee John Kerry, while in 2008 exit polls reported that fully 67 percent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama. Concerns about the war in Iraq and the economy clearly influenced Latino voters like many others, but immigration was also an issue. According to a Pew Hispanic Center poll conducted in the early summer of 2008, 75 percent of Latino registered voters viewed immigration as "extremely important" or "very important" to them personally. The survey also showed that 59 percent thought Obama would do a better job on immigration; 19 percent favored McCain; 22 percent felt that "both would to the same job" or did not see a difference between the two. Of consequence to future elections, the shift in partisanship is again more pronounced in certain states. In Florida, where Obama's margin of victory was less than 200,000 votes, 57 percent of Latinos supported him, a marked change from 2004, when Kerry received only 44 percent of the Latino vote. Obama also enjoyed double-digit increases in shares of the Latino vote over Kerry in other battleground states like New Jersey, New Mexico, and Nevada (LULAC 2008; Lopez 2008). In the 2010 midterm elections, Latino voters in Nevada were credited with giving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the margin of victory in his tough-fought reelection campaign; according to exit polls, 90 percent of Latino voters chose Reid over his Republican opponent (Shaw, this volume).
Yet, despite evidence of increasing political voice among Latinos, immigrant advocates can, at best, harbor only cautious optimism. The final contributions to this volume speculate on the long-term impact of the 2006 demonstrations and what the protests might mean for electoral politics, the collective identity of Latinos in the United States, and the kind of mobilizing structures that were so important for coordinating the protests. DeSipio's assessment is that the demonstrations hardened attitudes and positions on all sides of the immigration issue, which will make the compromises necessary for comprehensive immigration reform more difficult, especially in light of the 2010 midterm elections. He suggests that legislative success rests on an energized and creative infrastructure of community-based organizations focused on immigrant incorporation and political engagement, underscoring the dynamic relationship between protest and old-fashioned politics.
In comparison, our final two contributors, Roberto Suro and Ruth Milkman, are more optimistic about the long-term impact of the protests, suggesting an alternative way of seeing the hardened attitudes and positions highlighted by DeSipio. According to Suro, Latinos' heightened sense of common fate, strengthened by the marches, will spur Latinos to become an energized voting block, with real electoral power. Milkman, focusing on the labor movement, draws parallels between the effects of the street protests against California's Proposition 187 in 1994. She argues that in 1994, the anti-Prop. 187 demonstrations spurred a wave of reactive naturalizations in California, which unions then mobilized to bring new voters into a progressive Latino-labor coalition that has reshaped California politics. According to Milkman, labor might well provide the infrastructure for immigrant incorporation and political engagement that DeSipio identifies as necessary.
Such a new progressive coalition would raise tricky questions about a key issue illuminated by the 2006 immigrant rights protests: the meaning of membership in a globalized world. Unions explicitly or implicitly link standing in society to work, which provides a wedge for those without legal residence to claim membership in the society that employs them and benefits from their labor. In making work a cornerstone of membership, however, certain equalities guaranteed by a focus on state-based citizenship are undermined. With citizenship, all citizens can claim equality in society and access to benefits regardless of their working status, a type of claims making that has been especially important for women.
If membership is not based on citizenship or work, what then? As we have argued, a cosmopolitan or human rights-based notion of membership and belonging gained little purchase in 2006, and, while civic binationality might exist in immigrant communities, it is not particularly well received by majority Americans. Given the tight link between citizenship and voting in the United States, there are few reasons to think a human rights view will expand American notions of membership to include all immigrants in the near or medium future. At the same time, if the immigrant rights movement does prove to be an ongoing movement, with the protests of 2006 merely an initial volley in a sustained contest over notions of membership and belonging, the conception of citizenship might well expand in future decades. Either way, the massive protests of 2006 will be looked back upon as a key moment in the development of immigration politics in the United States.
Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more