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    Low Turnout Seen for Pro-Immigrant Rallies
    Immigration; Posted on: 2007-05-01 09:00:13 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    The Senate is scheduled to debate immigration later this month, but behind-the-scenes negotiations have stalled and no formal bill has yet been presented.

    by Jennifer Ludden

    Advocates for the rights of undocumented workers are staging dozens of marches and rallies across the country this May Day, but organizers expect turnout to be just a fraction of last year's numbers.

    While more than a million people took part in a work boycott in 2006, aimed at showing how crucial undocumented workers are to the U.S economy, the marches also energized anti-immigration groups and cost dozens of participants their jobs.

    The rallies, calling for the legalization of an estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the United States, have lost some momentum this year as a result.

    In addition, there is no longer the immediate outrage at a 2006 Congressional bill, which drove some to protest at this time last year, aiming to criminalized illegal presence in the U.S.

    This year, there is less organization and pressing debate, Gordon Mayer, of the Community Media Workshop in Chicago, told the Associated Press.

    "There's not homogenous leadership or means of communication," Mayer, said. Mayer, who helped organize today's Chicago march, said, "There was a sort of energy last year. This year that boulder has split up into a lot of smaller rocks."

    Stepped up workplace raids have also left many immigrants fearful of speaking out in public. A number of Tuesday's demonstrations will focus on families that have been separated when a parent has been deported. Others will promote voter registration. Some groups are still urging people to boycott work, while others oppose that tactic.

    The largest 2007 turnout could be in the Los Angeles area, where organizers say two demonstrations could draw some 20,000 people.

    In Washington, D.C., several hundred members of Asian groups are lobbying on Capitol Hill. And in Miami, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean was set to speak to immigrant groups.

    Congress remains divided on immigration. A House bill would legalize many of the undocumented here now and allow some 400,000 "new workers" to come on temporary visas each year. But these measures would only take effect as successful enforcement "triggers" were achieved.

    The Senate is scheduled to debate immigration later this month, but behind-the-scenes negotiations have stalled and no formal bill has yet been presented.

    Senator Edward Kennedy is the Senate's main sponsor of immigration legislation. Speaking before the Anti-Defamation League Tuesday, he said enforcement efforts alone will only push illegal immigrants "deeper into the shadows and allow employers to continue to exploit them."

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    News Source: npr.org

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