The coalition that put 100,000 marchers onto Phoenix, Ariz., streets for last year’s march demanding legalization for undocumented aliens is expecting to turn out only 5,000 to 10,000 participants when they descend on the state Capitol on May Day – thanks to internal feuding.
While publicly blaming recent immigration raids across the country for creating fear and apprehension among illegals and making them reluctant to join the march for a second year, the coalition organizing the event has “disintegrated into a feud over power, money and control,” reported the Arizona Republic.
The dozens of labor unions, church and religious groups and Hispanic groups that marched under the banner of the We Are America/Somos America coalition are not cooperating this year because of differences over tactics, leadership and fundraising methods.
“There is division within the movement, but we don’t like to make that public,” said Hector Yturralde, president of We Are America.
Some, like Center for Community Change’s Germonique Jones, see the focus on national marches and rallies as distractions.
“People are so focused on the public displays, like marches and rallies, they are missing the other ways people are involved,” Jones said.
While the different groups are virtually unanimous in their desire for Congress to create a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens in the U.S., the path to that goal has become contentious following last year’s success.
A bill, introduced in the House in March, would provide legalization, but only after illegals returned to their home country first. This “touch back” provision is opposed by the We Are America coalition, while others see it as a pragmatic compromise to get a bill passed in Congress.
Elias Bermudez, president of Immigrants Without Borders, has made few friends by arguing that citizenship is the wrong goal and that most immigrants simply want to work.
“There are some people who, for political reasons, want to create a new citizenry, but 80 percent of people who come here only come because they want to work,” said Bermudez.
Alfredo Gutierrez, a former Democratic state senator and radio talk-show host, opposes both the bill and Bermudez, charging the latter with profiteering off the march by selling sponsorships to businesses in exchange for advertising space.
“They are commercializing it,” said Gutierrez, who is refusing to participate this year. “Elias is selling the march. He’s making a business out of it.”
The Phoenix experience is being repeated elsewhere.
In Sarasota, Fla., some immigrant-rights advocates are telling supporters not to march.
“When you come out to the streets, you jeopardize the safety of people and their children,” German Calderon, owner and editor of a monthly Spanish-language publication, told the Sarasota Herald. “There are some subversive groups out there who do not have good intentions.”
Luz Corcuera, chairwoman of the Latino Community Network of Manatee County, advises skipping the marches and focusing, instead, on immigration legislation currently before Congress.
“The task should not be to be out on the streets. The task should be to put pressure on lawmakers who have this immigration project before them on the table,” Corcuera said. “I am opposed to having people out in the open and putting them at risk.”
For Rusty Childress, founder of the anti-illegal-immigration group United for a Sovereign America, the waning enthusiasm for a large march is evidence that increased enforcement of immigration laws is working.
“This attrition through enforcement does seem to be having an impact,” Childress told the Arizona Republic. “The message is getting out that if you enforce the law, people will self-deport.”