Our view: Opponents' silence at rallies this week spoke volumes on the issue
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.04.2007
By all accounts, the number of participants in the immigration-reform marches this week was down compared with last year's protests. While the pro-immigrant side had a smaller turnout, the anti-immigrant side was barely noticeable.
The sparse turnout by counterprotesters in a dozen or so American cities should cause communities to re-evaluate their opposition to immigration reform.
If Tuesday's protests are any indication of national sentiment, anti-immigrant activists should get the message that perhaps not many everyday people — as opposed to talking heads on radio and television — agree with their position.
According to a story by Lourdes Medrano and Dale Quinn in Wednesday's Star, some 2,500 Tucsonans marched in favor of reforming the nation's broken immigration laws. Counterprotesters numbered about half a dozen.
The Tucson showing was a high point for anti-immigration forces.
Chicago had the largest march on Tuesday, with 150,000 participants. A story in the Chicago Tribune made no mention of an organized counterprotest. Los Angeles had 35,000 marchers, but news accounts made no mention of counterprotesters.
It was the same story in Dallas, where no one was reportedly offering a counterbalance to some 3,000 to 5,000 marchers. The Seattle Times noted a handful of individual counterdemonstrators at a march of 5,000.
Anti-immigrant forces had their best showing in Phoenix, where 250 people organized by the Minuteman movement held a counterprotest while 15,000 people marched.
If more people truly feel it is in the best interest of this country to deport all illegal immigrants and greatly increase border security, then more counterprotesters would have gone out to blunt the message of those in favor of immigration reform.
We hope that the numbers from Tuesday's rallies are truly indicative of national sentiment.
Letters to the editor and comments on the Star's Web site have blamed illegal immigrants for everything from traffic congestion and tainted spinach to the layoffs of Tucson Medical Center workers and urban sprawl.
We hope these are the views of a very small and misinformed minority.
Much of the vitriol directed at illegal immigrants comes from a land of make believe created by anti-immigrant commentators on radio and television who spew xenophobia and hate.
Take for example, claims that illegal immigrants are exploiting the health-care system and precluding U.S. citizens' access to health care. Illegal immigrants are entitled only to emergency care. At worst, U.S. citizens might have to wait a little longer in the emergency room. We see no evidence that citizens are being denied health care, either in the emergency room or in normal medical settings.
We are heartened by a comment President Bush made Thursday concerning the immigration reform debate in Washington, D.C.
"Comprehensive immigration reform means that we've got to be humane about the nearly 11 or 12 million people who are already here," the president said. "We need to treat these people not with amnesty, and not with animosity. So it's got to be a rational way forward."
Thankfully, animosity was a rarity during Tuesday's marches. We hope it remains that way as lawmakers debate immigration reform.
Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes border security, a guest-worker program, sanctions for workers who employ illegal entrants and a path to citizenship for those already here.
The STRIVE Act, for Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy, is not a perfect solution, but it is a reasonable compromise.