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Keeping Immigration Protesters Motivated, Organized

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Keeping Immigration Protesters Motivated, Organized

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Keeping Immigration Protesters Motivated, Organized

Keeping Immigration Protesters Motivated, Organized

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Protests ignited by the immigration reform debate on Capitol Hill have drawn hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in several American cities over the past week. Madeleine Brand speaks with Lisa Duran, a protest organizer and executive director of Rights for All People in Denver, Colo., about how local groups plan to motivate continued action in their communities.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The student protests are only part of the demonstrations that have brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets over the past week. From Los Angeles to Milwaukee, Texas to Illinois, organizers have been working for weeks to build support for the protests. We're joined now by one local organizer, Lisa Duran. She's executive director of Rights for All People in Denver, Colorado. And welcome to the program.

Ms. LISA DURAN (Executive Director, Rights for All People): Thank you very much.

BRAND: Now, there's been a great deal of momentum and energy built from these protests, and I think everyone was surprised by how many people actually turned out in the streets. How are you going to move forward from here and take advantage of that energy?

Ms. DURAN: Well, we were already doing that, and I think all over the country that the same is true. Monday night in Denver, we had an organizing meeting, and we had 200 people show up. And we shared updates of information at the state level and at the national level with each other, and then we broke up into small groups and built phone trees, and built mobilizing committees, and talked about actions that we want to do locally. And we also are hooking up to the National Days of Action, which is coming up on April 10.

BRAND: Well, April 10 seems like a long, way away from now, and it could be well after the issue has been settled in Congress.

Ms. DURAN: Well, I don't think so. I mean, that's our hope, is that it won't be. When we brought out 100,000 people in Denver, we saw an incredible spirit of anger mixed with hope and empowerment, and we're really hoping that Congress will listen to that.

BRAND: Now, you've been advocating for immigrants for a long time. Why now? Why has this issue become so hot now?

Ms. DURAN: I think we're living in a time in which a number of factors have come together. The political climate in the country, the tone of the Republican Party, the rise of the right, and the way the economy has shaped itself in the wake of different globalization treaties, along with an influx of immigrants from our southern neighbors has combined to create a climate unlike anything I've seen in all the time I've been involved organizing, which is since 1977.

BRAND: Now, the various proposals before Congress are complicated. There are many, many details in them. How do you explain what's going on to people to get them out in the streets? Are they protesting specific proposals in these bills, or are they just mobilizing in support of immigrants' rights in general?

Ms. DURAN: Oh, I think absolutely people are very aware of what, for instance, was passed in December in the House of Representatives, HR4437, a bill which would create a felon of every person without status, including 1.6 million children. So, no, they're absolutely aware of the specific proposals. They may not know every twist and turn, but they're saying I, we want to pass to citizenship, we to be able to reunify our families, those kinds of things.

BRAND: And what do you say when you make those telephone calls to get people to protest?

Ms. DURAN: They're already excited. We just say here's the time and the place. We're fighting for comprehensive immigration reform. Don't you want to be heard? And, absolutely, the answer is yes, and they're there.

BRAND: Lisa Duran, executive director of Rights for All People in Denver, Colorado. Thank you for joining us.

Ms. DURAN: It's been my pleasure. Thank you for having me on the air.

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