In Spring 2006, hundreds of thousands of immigrants’ rights activists marched in cities across the United States to protest Congressional legislation intended to increase the criminalization and deportation of “undocumented” immigrants. The protests began in March of that year and lasted until May, and focused the mainstream media’s attention on immigrant rights. Students, veteran activists, and enraged individuals organized to demand new laws to end discrimination against immigrants in the United States or to speed up citizenship.
On Monday, April 10, 2006, the largest number of people gathered in over 100 cities in the United States to protest the proposed anti-immigrant legislation. Hundreds of newspapers covered the protests. The following day, the New York Times reported from the Washington, DC, rally:
Monday’s gathering of tens of thousands of demonstrators in New York; Atlanta; Houston; Madison, Wis., and other cities also suggested that the millions of immigrants who have quietly poured into this country over the past 16 years, most of them Hispanic, may be emerging as a potent political force.
Over and over again, construction workers, cooks, gardeners, sales associates and students who said they had never demonstrated before said they were rallying to send a message to the nation’s lawmakers.
The organizers of the protests called Monday a National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, and the focus was on pushing for legislation that would legalize the roughly 11 million [undocumented] immigrants believed to be living in the United States. And in Atlanta, where the police estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 people participated in the rallies, some marchers invoked the tactics and slogans of the civil rights era.
Two other significant days over the course of the Spring protests were March 25 and May 1. On March 25, the largest single-city protest occurred in Los Angeles with estimated 500,000-1.5 million people. May 1 was the “Day Without Immigrants” or the “Great American Boycott.” On that day in May, pro-immigrant activist groups organized people to skip school, work, and not purchase goods from American companies in order to show non-immigrants the presence and power of immigrants living in the United States.
Ultimately, the bill that sparked the protests that year passed in the House but failed in the Senate.