Thursday, March 16, 2006

US Media Black Out of Immigrant Protests?

March 15, 2006

Immigration News

US Media Black Out Immigrant Protests

If you relied on the US media, you might not have noticed the massive pro-immigrant protests held in US cities in recent days. A survey of several leading US border and national media outlets revealed scant or non-existent coverage of protests against the Sensenbrenner immigration bill, HR 4437, convened in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Tampa by Latinos Unidos, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Sin Fronteras, and scores of other organizations.

The dearth of coverage is striking considering the ample doses of recent media attention on the Minutemen, immigration legislation and the growth of the undocumented workforce in the United States. Not surprisingly, the US exception was the Spanish-language television giant Univision which featured prominent stories about the protests on its nightly newscast. A program on a Univision- affiliated radio station in Chicago is credited for helping promote that city's action.

To sum up: An estimated 20,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, March 7, against the provisions of the Sensenbrenner immigration bill passed by the US House of Representatives last December. On Friday, March 10, from 75,000 to 150,000 demonstrators-or more- held a massive protest in the heart of Chicago against Sensenbrenner. Local media called it the largest demonstration in the Midwestern City since an anti-Iraq war protest in 2003. Taking on the characteristics of a strike, businesses were shut down and traffic was snarled for hours. Bus loads of demonstrators arrived from surrounding communities in Wisconsin and Indiana to participate in a march addressed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Chicago Mayor Richard Daly and US Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), among many others. "You are not criminals!" said Gov. Blagojevich in his speech. "You are workers who love your families!"

Protestor Abigail Marquez, an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, said she was satisfied at the community response to the convocation. "I feel happy, because this shows we are united," Marquez said. Although US and Mexican flags were prominent in the crowd, people from other nations joined in the protest. Contingents from the Caribbean, Central America, Ecuador, Colombia, Poland, Ireland, and China were especially noted. Other forces supporting the demonstration included labor unions, evangelical churches, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and the Nation of Islam. Besides the Washington and Chicago protests, a smaller demonstration against the Sensenbrenner bill, but still drawing hundreds of people, was conducted in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, March 11. Despite the large turn- outs, many US English-language media outlets in the border region initially ignored the protests. The Internet news sites of the Laredo Morning Times, El Paso Times, Las Cruces Sun-News and Albuquerque Tribune did not carry any stories about the burgeoning pro-immigrant movement in the two days following the Washington rally. Nor did the print edition of the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico's largest circulation daily. The publications are located in cities with huge Mexican immigrant populations. Tucson's Arizona Daily Star and the San Diego Union-Tribune ran small stories from the Reuters and Associated Press news services, respectively. Written by Karen Hawkins, the Associated Press piece included quotes from the director of the Illinois Minuteman Project , Rosanna Pulido, who participated in a press conference and tiny counter- demonstration in Chicago. Pulido said she didn't want to Chicago become a "sanctuary city," adding that 14 million underemployed US citizens could assume the jobs currently done by immigrants. Another Minuteman Project member, Carmen Mercer, was quoted by the EFE news service as saying that 9-11 made it imperative to oppose undocumented immigration.

Although the movement kicking off last week's protests has obvious national implications, as well as local ones in communities across the US, the importance was missed by the US border media outlets surveyed. The significance of the movement wasn't lost on the Chicago Sun-Times, however, which ran a follow-up story to last Friday's massive march. "We've been taught a lesson by Chicago," said Martha Ugarte, an activist in Los Angeles, California, with the pro-immigrant movement. Ugarte said the Chicago rally was the talk of the town in Los Angeles, where organizers are gearing up for a similar action later this month. According to Univision, anti-undocumented worker laws in Arizona are also inspiring the movement. Back in the Windy City, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights plans an event next weekend to help newly-naturalized citizens register to vote. On the other hand, members of the Illinois Minuteman Project and 9/11 Families for a Secure America blasted the pro-immigrant mobilization. Rosanna Pulido said US citizens are fed up with the illegal immigrant population. The Minuteman Project leader hoped that the "the outrage of the people of Illinois is heard through voting." For their part, Mexican border and national press outlets gave high profile treatment to the immigrant demonstrations. Accompanied by an article drawn from different news wires, Mexico City's La Jornada daily displayed a big photo of the Chicago protest on the home page of its website, as did El Sur of Acapulco, Guerrero. The newspaper is widely distributed in state that contributes large numbers of migrants to the Latino population of Chicago. El Universal, El Diario de Juarez and enlineadirecta, an Internet news site based in Tamaulipas state, all featured stories written by the EFE, Notimex and the Spanish-language AP news services.

Additional sources: Univision, March 7, 10, 11, 14, 2006. Univision.com, March 10, 2006. Article by Fabian Santillan. El Universal, March 11, 2006. La Jornada, March 11, 2006. El Sur, March 11, 2006. enlineadirecta.info, March 11, 2006. El Diario de Juarez, March 11, 2006. Arizona Daily Star March 11, 2006. San Diego Union-Tribune, March 11, 2006. Chicago Sun-Times, March 11 and 12, 2006. Articles by Dave Newbart, Monifa Thomas, Oscar Avila, Antonio Olivo, and Rick Pearson. HoyInternet.com, March 10, 2006. Article by Leticia Espinosa. Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news

Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

KJ

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