With Congress Away, Immigrants' Rights Issue Grows

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that an emerging immigrants' rights movement, characterized by large marches and demonstrations, is having a political impact on Capitol Hill.

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DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

From Paris to El Paso people power is making itself felt.

MICHELE NORRIS host:

NPR news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: In France, President Jacques Chirac was forced by two months of nationwide demonstrations, some of them violent, to rescind the controversial youth labor law.

In our country efforts to enact an immigration control law before the Easter recess crumbled in the face of peaceful but massive rallies around the country demanding recognition and citizenship.

I need to amend what I said on this program a week ago, that the immigration issue stalled in Congress would be retired to a back burner. Neither Congress nor I anticipated the extent of the demonstrations or the skills of the organizers, which made it possible to confront the government with a solid front.

The political impact of what must now be called a migrant's rights movement is already being felt. The Republican leaders in Congress, Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senator Bill Frist, have been quick to issue a joint statement disavowing any attempt to criminalize being in the United States illegally.

Nothing about a border fence, which was a centerpiece of a bill passed by the House last December. The Hill Newspaper reports a new Democratic drive to woo Hispanic voters and role back the nearly 40 percent among Hispanics that President Bush achieved in 2004. At a rally on the National Mall in Washington on Monday, the chant went up: today we march, tomorrow we vote.

Several organizations are asking immigrants to stay home from work on May 1. A day without Latinos, it's called, meant to drive home the economic contribution that immigrants make. When Congress returns, immigration as a political issue is likely to look a lot different than when it went away.

Ask France's President Chirac what aroused people can do. But I'm making no predictions. This is Daniel Schorr.

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