Immigration-Law Protest Set for Orange County, Calif.

Organizers of a weekend protest against a proposed congressional crackdown on illegal immigrants plan a major weekend protest in Orange County, Calif. They're hoping to replicate the success of last week's demonstration in downtown Los Angeles.

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From NPR News this is NEWS AND NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya, in for Ed Gordon.

Immigration has dominated headlines this week starting with a massive Los Angeles protest against proposed immigration legislation. Even protest organizers were surprised when more then 500,000 people marched and rallied in downtown L.A.

Now, organizers are calling for another march this Saturday in much more hostile territory south of Los Angeles in conservative Orange County, and they say they won't stop there. NPR's Nova Safo has more.

NOVA SAFO reporting:

Last Saturday it was clear that protestors were well organized and following a unified drumbeat. Many carried American flags as well as flags of Latin American countries. They wore white t-shirt to symbolize peace, and they spoke with common theme.

CRISENZIO(ph) RAMIREZ (Immigrant Resident of LA): We are not terrorists. We want to give support to these people who are being pointed out as terrorists, as not wanted.

SAFO: That as Crisenzio Ramirez, a father of two who came here 20 years ago and was undocumented for the first five of those years. Maria Malena Morfio(ph) is undocumented even though she's married to an American citizen. Her case is pending. She says undocumented immigrants used to have some hope.

Ms. MARIA MALENA MORFIO (Immigrant Resident of LA): If you are a good citizen, and you've been good to your country they give you the green card. So now we are not allowed to have even that.

SAFO: With the show of unity and calls for justice, the massive protest was targeting something very specific, the so-call Sensenbrenner Bill, Congressional legislation that would have made illegal immigrants felons, punished anyone who helped them, and erected a huge border wall. Those provisions were rejected by a Senate Committee early this week, and march organizers declared victory.

Mr. JESSIE DIAZ (March Organizer): We can say that we have done our part in changing the tide of history and the United States.

SAFO: Organizer Jessie Diaz was pushing for a mass march even as other leaders were skeptical, but after getting local Spanish language media involved, the idea took off. All the organizers credit Spanish language broadcast outlets for spreading the word, especially radio personalities. Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association says those radio personalities reached a vast willing audience, educated listeners about the objectionable legislation and encouraged them to turn out.

Mr. NATIVO LOPEZ (President, Mexican American Political Association): And the message was assimilated by the broad masses of our people; of the middle classes, housewives; of working people; of children; of incapacitated people--they assimilated the message and it truly reveals to us, the strength of pop culture and the Spanish language.

SAFO: Louis DeSipio is professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine. He says the backing of unions, church leaders, the Spanish language broadcast media, and the fear generated by the Sensenbrenner bill all played a role in creating the mass protest last Saturday. But DeSipio says, in order to move ahead, organizers must bring out not only non-voting first generation immigrants, but also those who can go to the ballot box.

Mr. LOUIS DESPIO (Political Science Professor, University of California, Irvine): For Congress to listen it has to be voters at some level that are upset by policies that are being made or not being made. And if the energy of last Saturday is to be translated into effective policy, native born U.S. citizens in their 30s, and 40s, and 50s who are the ones who vote most often, need to also be as concerned about some of the bills that are before Congress.

SAFO: And in fact, organizers are some broadening their message away from the specifics of the Sensenbrenner bill. They're talking of human rights and civil rights. Raul Mario of Hermandad Mexicana says the ultimate goal is amnesty.

Mr. RAUL MARIO (Hermandad Mexicana): Last Saturday, the march was only the beginning of this big demonstration. Our voice was heard in Washington, D.C. and they will keep hearing from us. And we won't stop until those 12 million of immigrants become legal permanent residents in the United States and United States citizens.

SAFO: Tomorrow, there is another protest scheduled, one that's been on the drawing board for two months. And organizers are planning a ten city protest for April 10, all ultimately leading up to nationwide boycott on May 1, of all work, school, and shopping. Organizers are hoping to send a strong message with boycott by targeting the U.S. economy, but it remains to be seen if Latinos will turn out once again in large numbers.

So far follow up protests have been on a smaller scale as high school students have walked out of their classes and taken to the streets.

Nova Safo, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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