The Change They Seek

By John Wahala on May 8, 2009

In what has become an annual exercise, activists came together on May 1, International Workers’ Day 2009 to demand a pardon for all those residing illegally in the country. And although last week’s rallies lacked the magnitude and intensity of recent years—when a sweeping legislative amnesty appeared imminent—they were replete with the same conspicuous contempt for the American mainstream that illegal aliens ostensibly seek to join.

The gathering here in Washington, D.C., had the predictable themes: an internationalist orientation; an array of Soviet-style paraphernalia; and the relentless recitation of Cesar Chavez’s dictum, “Si se puede!” After an introduction in Spanish by the Rev. Noemi Mena, the protesters got a rousing exhortation by the Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, who called on all Africans, Latinos, and Asians to march together demanding justice. It was not clear if the reverend was seeking ethnic solidarity to impel an amnesty or some sort of restructuring of the entire political order. Whatever the intention, his remarks were representative of the general tone of the day—an ostentatious disdain for the rule of law that has come to symbolize the immigration rights movement. One protester even waved a sign that proclaimed, “End Domestic Terrorism, Stop Raids and Deportations.”

Imagine how inappropriate it would be for thousands of New Yorkers to illegally resettle in Guadalajara, wave American flags in the streets, and demand rights to which they have no legal claim. Yet this is what millions have done every May Day in cities across the country for the last several years. And while it should be obvious to those participating, these displays have galvanized opposition to their cause. But the organizers of these events simply cannot help themselves. Many, like the former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, have extremist backgrounds and see mass immigration as a vehicle for transformational change. For them amnesty is part of the larger goal of ensuring unending and uncontrolled immigration, which will fundamentally alter America’s institutions. In this worldview, the individual immigrant, whether legal or illegal, is just a pawn. And the more radical elements on parade represent the movement’s true intention.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out Boycott & Backlash: May Day in New New Mexico.