Instituto Tecnolgico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
Short Research Paper
Is a broad-based civil rights movement emerging, or was the spring of 2006 simply a one-time phenomenon? The conditions surrounding 2006 marches pro-immigrant may be consider similar to does that presented for civil rights movement in the 1960's. Throughout United States history fighting for rights and needs has always been present, especially talking about civil rights. The racism, discrimination, exploitation of the less fortunate, freedom movements, marches and ideals that surround both civil rights movement from 1960's and immigration rights movement of 2000's are similar in so many ways. Both movements represent a fight for freedom and preservation of rights in the United States, a movement to end with discrimination and mistreatment of the exploited and minorities. But does how does the civil rights movement affect and resembles this new immigration rights movement? Differences in both movements are also important to take into account and consideration while analyzing the impact of 1960's movement in the one of 2000's in order to answer whether this new upcoming movement could be consider as a new civil rights fight or just a one-time occurrence. The analysis would be divided into three sections: The summary and context of 2006 immigration marches and the role African Americans had during this movement, the main features of the civil rights movement and the consideration and possibility of the potential of a new upcoming civil rights movement.
For weeks in the spring of 2006, television and newspapers featured spectacular images of masses of people lined up for miles in marches across the United States. The US mobilizations began when over half a million immigrants and their supporters took to the streets in Chicago on March 10, 2006. Following the Chicago action, rolling strikes and protests spread to other cities, large and small organized by various organizations. Millions came out on 25 March for a 'national day of action', between one and two million people demonstrated in Los Angeles, the single biggest public protest in the city's history, and millions more followed in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Tucson, Denver, and dozens of other cities. (ROBINSON, 2004) Again, on April 10, millions answered the call for another day of protest, hundreds of thousands of high school students in Los Angeles and around the country staged walk-outs in support of their families and communities, braving police repression and legal sanctions. Then on the 1st of May, International Workers' Day, trade unionists and social justice activists joined immigrants in 'The Great American Boycott 2006/A Day without an Immigrant'. Millions in over 200 cities from across the country skipped work and school, commercial activity and daily routines in order to participate in a national boycott, general strike, rallies and symbolic actions. (ROBINSON, 2004) The May 1 action was a resounding success, hundreds of experienced mass public mobilizations that placed them on the political map and also dependant on immigrant labor communities came to a standstill. Such mass demonstrations advocating for the rights of immigrants are unprecedented in American history. The immediate trigger for the marches was the passage by the House of Representatives of HR4437, a bill introduced by Republican representative James Sensenbrenner. Among other things, the Sensenbrenner bill (HR4437) would have made the plain status of being an undocumented immigrant a felony subject to imprisonment as well as deportation from the United States. It also would have imposed criminal sanctions on persons who provided humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants. It also stipulated the construction of the first 700 miles of a militarized wall between Mexico and the US and would double the size of the US border patrol (Johnson & Ong Hing, 2007). However, the wave of protest goes beyond HR4437. The emerging movement, at least at the beginning, represented a reaction to the Sensenbrenner bill, not a proactive movement seeking positive change. The cruel measures in the proposed bill initially unleashed calls to action and demands to stop disciplinary anti-immigrant measures. However, the movement later transformed itself into a quest for justice for immigrants that moved well beyond blocking the passage of one bill. It represents the unleashing of built-up anger and caused by years of exploitation and an escalation of anti-immigrant repression and racism. The anti-immigrant hate groups discourse that used to be extreme are becoming more and more frequent, a worryingly example is the organization known as the Minutemen, "which is a modern day Latino-hating version of the Ku Klux Klan, has spread from its place of origin along the US-Mexican border in Arizona and California to other parts of the country. (ROBINSON, 2004) Without question, the marches accomplished influence in the national debate over immigration and also marked no one to forget the resistance created by the bill of 2006, which by the summer, had the more controversial parts appeared to have lost support. Congress could only reach consensus on additional border security, the only immigration legislation passed was directed at adding seven hundred miles of fence along the southern border (Johnson & Ong Hing, 2007).
Racial discrimination and constant battle against exploitation is some of the common ground between immigration rights movement and civil rights movement of 1960's which was mainly leaded by African Americans but also included some other minorities, such as women. Civil Rights movement started as a fight against segregation and for equal rights. It consisted on several marches, sit-ins, non-violent protests, and the prosecution of several cases before the Supreme Court. These cases culminated in the Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (May 17, 1954), in which it declared that separate educational facilities were naturally unequal and therefore unconstitutional. (Davidson J. , 1996)This historic decision was to stimulate a mass movement on the part of blacks and white sympathizers to try to end the segregationist practices and racial inequalities that were firmly entrenched across the nation and particularly in the South. The movement was strongly resisted by many whites in the South and in several places. Other important events were the Rosa Parks arrest because she refused to move to the African American section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama (December 1, 1955), blacks staged a one-day local boycott of the bus system to protest her arrest. Fusing these protest elements with the historic force of African American churches, a local Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., succeeded in transforming a spontaneous racial protest into a massive resistance movement, led from 1957 by his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). After a protracted boycott in the Montgomery Bus Company forced it to desegregate its facilities, boycotting spread rapidly to other communities. During the period from 1955 to 1960, some progress was made toward integrating schools and other public facilities in the upper South and the Border States (Davidson J. W., 1996). In 1960 the sit-in movement (largely under the auspices of the newly formed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; SNCC) was launched at Greensboro, North Carolina, when black college students insisted on service at a local segregated lunch counter. The movement reached its climax in August 1963 with the massive March on Washington, D.C., to protest racial discrimination and demonstrate support for major civil rights legislation that was pending in Congress. In 196163 President Kennedy won a following in the black community by encouraging the movement's leaders, and after President Kennedy's assassination (November 1963), Congress, under the prodding of President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1964 passed the Civil Rights Act. This was the most far-reaching civil rights bill in the nation's history, forbidding discrimination in public accommodations and threatening to withhold federal funds from communities that persisted in maintaining segregated schools. It was followed in 1965 by the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The accomplishments made by the civil rights movement were remarkable and while commonly is only though as a pro-black movement it also took into consideration and helped all minorities into accomplish a better treatment in the states.
After over viewing both movements and its main events and triggers now is important to establish the common ground that creates and impact and a possibility and what does not into the creation of a new civil rights movement. The common ground that can be identifies between this two movements is mainly the actions taken towards immigrants in 2000's and African Americans in 1960's and also the response of both of this groups. As it has already been mentioned both movements consisted basically on marches and protests mainly non-violent which asked for an improvement in rights for them. But for this recent movement (immigration) to be consider the new mass civil rights movement has to have a common ground not only with the past civil rights movement but with Blacks, Asian Americans, and Latina/os which should be able to agree on the need to eliminate racism from the criminal justice system as well as law enforcement generally. (Johnson & Ong Hing, 2007) This common ground could be damaged by the lack of African American enrollment in the recent movement which seems to be a result for the competition escalating between Latin's and African Americans. (Althoff, 2007)
The massive immigrant rights marches in the spring of 2006 were relatively narrow in focus. Collective of demonstrators, including many Latin, marched for immigrant rights, specifically opposing the Sensenbrenner bill and demanding amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Immigration reform failed to create instant appeal among non-Latina/o minority groups. For example, Asian Americans were not initially attracted to support immigrants. In an effort to draw Asian Americans to the marches, Asian American civil rights organizations engaged in community education efforts to draw parallels between immigrant rights in their communities and those in Latina/o communities. Similarly, African Americans were not visibly involved in the immigration marches, and some even protested against immigration and the alleged impact of immigrants on the black community (Johnson & Ong Hing, 2007). Nevertheless for the movement to be effective it was to be focus on common concerns, such as the experience of racial discrimination. It would include antidiscrimination as well as immigrant-rights planks. It would also be multiracial, with different minority groups, including African Americans, working together to secure broad social change. The unifying goal would be social justice for all groups in U.S. society, which would increase the coalition-building potential of the movement and would help place its goals on a high moral plane.
This new immigration rights movement is far from being considered a new civil rights movement because of the lack of strength in uniting all of minorities which coexist in the United States. Nevertheless the option of becoming a strong civil rights movement cannot be denied. The possibility exists since the common interests are pure social justice for all groups the problem relies on the conflict of interest for each group involved. African American could and do sympathize with Latin Immigrants and vice versa but it's the affected African American by the low priced labor offered by immigrants that create conflict with a pro-immigrant movement. This leads into the fact that immigrants represent a great force in the capital global world and therefore a true immigrant rights movement would also have a direct impact in the economy this movement challenges the class relations that are at the very core of global capitalism. (ROBINSON, 2004)
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