Immigrant Rights Protests -- Spring 2006

by Xóchitl Bada, Jonathan Fox, Jane Guskin

Between February 14 and May 1, 2006, some four hundred protest actions in defense of immigrant rights took place in more than two hundred U.S. cities and towns, involving an estimated six million participants. These events were part of a mass mobilization in response to a draconian immigration bill, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act" (HR 4437) that passed the House of Representatives in December 2015. Catching journalists by surprise, demonstrations rolled across the country. Some of the protests were held during weekday work hours and promoted as a part of a “Day without Immigrants” strike, featuring “no work, no school, no shopping,” while others [continue introduction]

These maps and charts are based on data initially developed by Xóchitl Bada, Jonathan Fox, Elvia Zazueta, and Ingrid García for their Wilson Center study, Invisible No More. Jane Guskin located additional protests and contributed the notes that accompany most records. The maps are hosted by Tableau Public and may take a few seconds to respond. If slow, refresh the page. 

Move between five maps and charts using the tabs below

Sources and methods: These data were initially developed by Xóchitl Bada, Jonathan Fox, Elvia Zazueta, and Ingrid García for their Wilson Center study, Invisible No More. The original 2006 database includes both lower and upper bound estimates of participants (Column E in original excel dataset), taking into account different sources. Please note that this visualization project uses the upper bound estimates for each event. The more conservative, lower bound estimate is from the mainstream English language city newspaper, whereas the higher estimates comes from alternative and Spanish language media, or from local organizers. The original database cites both, to allow readers to come to their own conclusions. The data used for the maps and charts below includes additional protests, crowd counts, and notes added to the original dataset by Jane Guskin. The added data is primarily from news sources cited in Immigration News Briefs in 2006 or discovered in 2017-2018 research using library database and internet searches. Maps by James Gregory


Spring 2006 Immigrant Rights Protests

by Jane Gustin

Between February 14 and May 1, 2006, some four hundred protest actions in defense of immigrant rights took place in more than two hundred U.S. cities and towns, involving an estimated six million participants.[1] These events were part of a mass mobilization in response to a draconian immigration bill, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act" (HR 4437) that passed the House of Representatives in December 2005. Catching journalists by surprise, demonstrations rolled across the country.

Some of the protests were held during weekday work hours and promoted as a part of a “Day without Immigrants” strike, featuring “no work, no school, no shopping,” while others were planned as weekend marches, evening candlelight vigils, or lunch-hour demonstrations. Some organizers sought to discipline messaging by calling on participants to wear white, carry U.S. flags, and avoid using flags from other countries. One popular slogan was “today we march, tomorrow we vote.”

The protests were not limited to major cities or traditional immigrant gateways. Many took place in small communities with rapidly growing immigrant workforces and in mid-sized cities that lacked a long history of immigrant integration. Participants were predominantly of Latin American origin, including many U.S. citizens as well as immigrants with and without legal status. Actions included a wave of student walkouts in late March at high schools and middle schools, especially in Texas and California.

A million and a half people in over 100 locations participated in a nationwide day of action on April 10. Another day of action on May 1 saw nearly two and a half million people demonstrating in some 150 locations. On both these nationwide days of action, workers opted to observe a “Day without Immigrants” that left hundreds of businesses closed, especially in industries that rely heavily on immigrant labor such as meatpacking and poultry processing.

A backlash came as the protests were in full swing: in mid-April, the federal government began a series of massive, high-profile immigration raids at workplaces across the country. Still, the mobilizations succeeded in defeating the anti-immigrant bill HR 4437. On May 25, the Senate passed its own version of the bill, absent most of HR 4437’s punitive elements and including various legalization measures for undocumented immigrants that were previously viewed as unattainable, such as AgJOBS and the DREAM Act. The two unreconcilable bills then died in committee. The recession hit in late 2007, and immigration slowed. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president on a platform promoting immigrant rights.

 

[1] The estimated total number of participants does not reflect the total number of individuals involved, as some individuals attended multiple events, but rather reflects the sum of each event’s crowd estimates.


More on the 2006 Immigrant Rights Movement

Immigrant Rights Protests in Washington State, Spring 2006

By Katherine Cavanaugh

In hundreds of cities and towns, immigrant workers, Latinx students and other Americans took to the streets in the Spring of 2006 to protest a draconian immigration restriction bill that had passed the House of Representatives. This essay analyzes why this massive protest movement arose by taking a closer look at the movement in Washington State, detailing the role of grassroots organizing both in Seattle and in rural areas of the state where high school students sometimes took the lead, staging school walkouts and marches in communities that had never before seen similar mobilizations.