Immigration Protests, Part 1: Spanish-Language Media

America's Spanish-language media sources are playing a pivotal role in organizing demonstrations against proposed changes to the nation's immigration policy. Radio and television personalities told protesters where to meet and how to behave ahead of recent demonstrations. Madeleine Brand talks to Jorge Ramos, a reporter for Spanish-language Univision News, about recent demonstrations and the new protests expected on Monday.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Congress may go on spring recess today without a compromise on new immigration legislation. Demonstrations are expected around the country again this weekend, as well as a national day of action on Monday.

CHADWICK: Before the program began today, we called some people around the country who are preparing for what's going to happen.

BRAND: Jorge Ramos is news anchor at Univision based in Miami. Hi, Jorge.

Mr. JORGE RAMOS (News Anchor, Univision): Hi. How are you doing?

BRAND: Fine, thank you. So there's lots of information on the Internet about the rallies around the country this weekend and on Monday. Tell us more about these rallies and where the biggest one's going to be.

Mr. RAMOS: Definitely the biggest one should be Los Angeles, probably in Chicago. They're expecting hundreds of thousands of people also in Miami, in New York, probably in Houston. What's so interesting is that it is very difficult to find a visible leader for all these demonstrations, and it seems that they are media-driven. Not especially by television, because, just as you do, we have very strict journalistic standards in television. But when it comes to radio, it is amazing what they can do and the power to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people. So it is a way of saying, for the immigrants, they're saying we're not going back to our country of origin, and also to put some pressure on Congress to go ahead with a true, comprehensive immigration reform.

BRAND: Tell us more about these radio announcers you mentioned. Several of them here in Los Angeles, Peoline(ph) for example, played an important role in the last rally. What are they doing this time around?

Mr. RAMOS: They're doing exactly the same thing. They're telling people if you want to be heard in Washington, the only way for you to put pressure on Congress is by going to these demonstrations. Peoline definitely has more audience than, let's say, Howard Stern. There's another one, and Peoline is from Mexico City. He's already been living in the United States for many, many years. Also a guy called Kukui(ph), he's from Honduras, and he has been in Los Angeles for a long, long time.

What's so interesting is that we have not seen, for instance, members of Congress, there are 22 Hispanic members of Congress, or we have not seen the three Hispanic U.S. Senators getting involved in this. However, it's amazing how these radio announcers have been able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people.

BRAND: And what are they telling the demonstrators to do specifically, maybe to wear or to carry or how they should present themselves?

Mr. RAMOS: Basically, the most important thing for them is that the demonstrations and the rallies, that they have to be peaceful, because otherwise they could be, they could be counterproductive. They do not want to antagonize the America public. We do not want to see violence, but also, we want to make sure that our voices are being heard in Washington.

BRAND: Although Jorge, the passage of legislation dealing with immigration and illegal immigration looks increasingly murky or doubtful because the senators went on spring break without coming up with anything, and you know, this legislation just could die this session. So will that change the tone of the demonstrations, do you think?

Mr. RAMOS: No. As a matter of fact, it's making it more urgent, because within the Hispanic community, especially for immigrants, they are incredibly savvy about immigration law. You would be surprised. They are like amateur attorneys, immigration attorneys, experts in every single detail. So they do understand the process. I think there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating.

Now, the problem is that most immigrants can not skip work, and it's going to be on a Monday, and we might not see as many people as we saw a couple of weeks ago. But definitely there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people all around the country, and the message is going to be, we're here. We're not going back, and we're not criminals. We're not terrorists. We deserve to be in this country.

BRAND: Jorge Ramos is a news anchor at Univision. Thank you, Jorge.

Mr. RAMOS: Thank you.

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