People marched through Phoenix and other cities across the country in an attempt to get Congress to act on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Arizona Republic reporter Daniel Gonzalez and Arizona State University Political Science professor Rudy Espino discuss the marches and political debate surrounding immigration reform.
José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. On Tuesday, thousands gathered in the nation's Capitol to ask congress to pass immigration reform. Tuesday's event was a culmination of other events around the country that started with marches and rallies here in Phoenix and other cities last Saturday, October 5th, what immigration proponents called the National Day for Dignity and Respect. Here with me to talk about the marches is Daniel Gonzalez, who covers immigration for The Arizona Republic. Also here to talk about the politics involved in this issue is Rudy Espino, an Associate Professor at the ASU School of Politics and Global Studies. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." There's a lot else going on in our country this week and if we have some time we'll talk about the government shutdown but in many ways, the marches and the other things that you're covering are intended to remind people that there's this other big issue out there. First of all, give us your impression of the marches.
Daniel Gonzalez: Well, the march in Phoenix actually had a pretty good turnout. I think even the organizers themselves were concerned about how many people would actually show up. As you recall back in 2006, we had as many 200,000 people show up to march through the streets of downtown Phoenix. A lot of those kinds of tactics have gone to the wayside. There's been more emphasis now on voter registration and getting people to beef up the Latino vote. And then we've lost a lot of people in our state, 200,000 undocumented people have moved out and there hasn't been the same kind of energy for those kinds of marches. Four to five thousand people showed up for the marches. The organizers were very happy.
José Cárdenas: They expected around 3,000 or so.
Daniel Gonzalez: They were hoping two to three thousand people who were going to show up and to make sure they had that many people, they were saying you're going to be responsible for this five hundred people, you're going to be responsible for two hundred people, each organization just to make sure they had a good showing, and then when they ended up being 5,000 people showing up, they were pretty happy. It was a very energetic crowd, a very boisterous crowd, very peaceful crowd. They marched from the Immaculate Heart Church down to the federal courthouse. They had planned to do a mock citizenship rally there but they ran into some glitches but overall, I think it accomplished what it intended to do, which was to grab the attention of Congress and say hey, immigration reform is still out there. There's a Senate bill that passed in June. It's been languishing in the house and they were saying hey we want to see some movement on this and I think they accomplished that.
José Cárdenas: Any sense for how it went in the other cities across the country where these marches were taking place?
Daniel Gonzalez: There were turnouts in something like over 90 cities. They weren't all marches but they were rallies, demonstrations, different kinds of events. I think they were all very successful in getting people to come out and make their presence known.
José Cárdenas: So Rudy, the intent that Daniel said was to remind Congress hey, this issue was out there. Did it work?
Rudy Espino: It's hard to say because those marches are still fresh in the news, if you will, and the thing that's dominating the news cycle, of course, is the government shutdown. And that's the pressing things that members of Congress are talking about. You do have these marches, you do have members of Congress getting arrested to draw attention to the push for comprehensive immigration reform but as Daniel was mentioning, the tactics are quite different from when we saw in 2006. As opposed to mass protests you're seeing a lot more, you know, strategy involved, you know. How are you going to do what we can with the resources that we have, given the fact that the news cycle is being dominated by the fact the government is shut down.
José Cárdenas: Is it a smart move given that the news cycle is so focused on the government shutdown? Did it make sense as the organizers thought it would be to say we're still here?
Rudy Espino: It's hard to say. In some ways you can say that this is going to give more fire to the Tea Party Caucus, that it's pressing Speaker Boehner to hole his line, force Obama to make some compromises, more compromises that he's less willing to make and the Tea Party caucus, a lot of them are not fans of the push for the comprehensive immigration reform. A lot of activists are pushing for. I don't know if it's the best strategy, actually.
José Cárdenas: Daniel, what about backlash, at least at the local level? Before this last Saturday's marches, you had people like Rusty Childress saying you're just inflaming the people who are opposed as Rudy talked about to immigration reform. This actually helps my side, and hurts yours.
Daniel Gonzalez: I think a lot of that was taking into consideration they thought, you know, are we going to risk stirring up the pot here? Back in 2006, when there was the big marches on one level they were very successful, they put a face on immigrants. You had families, you had people wearing white. It reminded people that these are people who are doing a lot of jobs in the United States that otherwise wouldn't get done or they're undesirable jobs. So it was successful in that way but there was also a backlash that was created where, all of a sudden, a lot of Americans thought oh, my gosh I never realized there were so many people in the country illegally so there was that negative effect. And then there was also some people who resented the fact that the people who they felt had broken immigration laws out in the streets demanding things from America. But I think right now we haven't seen that kind of backlash. So I think they took that into consideration, that there hasn't been the same kind of energy on the opposition side but also a big difference now is since 2006 to now, there's been years of mobilization, years of registering people to vote and I think people are feeling, you know, what? We have a clout now at the ballot box that we didn't have in 2006 and it's worth risking any kind of backlash that it might have created.
José Cárdenas: Rudy, you mentioned the arrests in Washington, D.C. Congressman Grijalva from Arizona was one of the persons who was arrested. Quite apart from whether anybody paid attention because of these other issues, does it make sense to do that?
Rudy Espino: I think it shows that you have members of Congress right now given what Congress has to deal with right now, dealing with the government shutdown, if there are members of Congress willing to go to jail right, I think that's going to give more energy to a lot of the protests, the activists that we see pushing for comprehensive immigration reform which is something that this country has been struggling with since 1986. The last time that we had comprehensive immigration reform was 1986 and here we are decades later struggling with a broken system. This is an opportunity for members of both parties to come together on something right? Because members of both parties recognize that our system is broken but what are they going to do about it? And right now, they're being distracted by these other things going on with the government shutdown.
José Cárdenas: And when you say come together on something, there are plans underway; at least those are the rumors, in the Republican side to come up with separate pieces of legislation addressing discrete areas. For example, one that would deal with the Dreamers.
Rudy Espino: This is where Democrats and Republicans differ on how we pass anything, whether it be comprehensive immigration reform or the government shutdown. Democrats are pushing for a comprehensive approach. Republicans are pushing for a piecemeal approach and this is something they cannot get passed and we really see this taking place in the house, not in the Senate. And as I said -- I teach a class on Congress, typically the Senate is really, really slow and the house is really, really quick, house is waiting on the Senate. Here we see the opposite right? The house is being ineffective; it's being slowed down by party polarization. The Senate is waiting on the house. Here you have the members of the house acting so slow on getting anything done, moving slower than I would say -- I tell my students, a land sloth moving for that last slice of pizza. Here they are, members of the Senate just frustrated with their house counterparts, waiting and waiting, we want to push for a comprehensive approach. House Republicans are just wanting to do a piecemeal approach and there's no in between right now.
José Cárdenas: Daniel, on the subject of civil disobedience, in addition to what we've already season, we've had a situation in Texas where you had about 30 people who basically crossed in from Mexico illegally. And most of them are still in custody. And then as I understand it, there's something planned for this Saturday, tell us about that.
Daniel Gonzalez: Well, this Saturday, there's going to be some folks coming in from around the country to do some planning and to do a major civil disobedience on Monday at the ICE offices on Central Avenue in Phoenix and they haven't given a specifics yet but I imagine it's going to be similar to what happened about a month ago where some folks chained themselves to the gates of ICE, and then later on attempted to block a bus loaded with immigrants headed to detention facilities to be deported. They attempted to block that bus, and I think we're going to see a larger-scale version of that and that is symptomatic of some of the larger tactics moving towards civil disobedience. You've got to remember the immigration movement is made up of many, many different groups and there are some groups out there that are feeling that they're very frustrated by the lack of movement of immigration reform in Congress. They feel this is their last really best chance of seeing immigration reform passed. They're afraid that this chance is going to slip away so they're going for more high-profile civil disobedience, civil disobedience. And we're going to see some more of that and the question is that going to be kind of the dominant part of their movement or just kind of relegated to some smaller groups taking these types of actions?
José Cárdenas: Lots more to see and lots more questions. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it. I'm sure we'll be back again to have further discussions.
Daniel Gonzalez:Reporter, Arizona Republic;Rudy Espino:Political Science Professor, Arizona State University