- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Carlos Alcazar says the Hispanic press has long sought to increase the civic and political participation of Spanish-speaking immigrants in this country.

Demonstrations and boycotts on Monday “awakened a sleeping giant,” said Mr. Alcazar, president of the Hispanic Communications Network.

Although Hispanic leaders say it is too early to gauge the economic impact of the May Day protests — designed to persuade Congress to enact lenient immigration laws — they feel the huge amount of coverage the events received has to be beneficial for their cause.

“We need to fix our broken immigration system, and no single organization or movement could have afforded to provide the kind of coverage” that the mass demonstrations generated, said Mickey Ibarra, head of a public relations firm whose clients include the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“I’ve never seen the Latino community more united than it is at this time. … This may well be the tipping point in the Latino community that results in greater voter registration and voter turnout,” Mr. Ibarra said.

Thomas Oliver, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Hispanic Publications Inc., said reports from some of the organization’s 500 members indicate that the activities Monday were a “very positive development” for Hispanic immigrants.

Others have criticized the strategy behind the May Day rallies, particularly the display of foreign flags.

“That nationalistic display needlessly aggravates the ‘us-versus-them’ immigration debate,” the Orlando Sentinel said yesterday in an editorial. A demonstration in that Florida city drew 20,000 marchers, some of whom flew the flags of Mexico, Chile, Panama, Ecuador and other Latin American homelands.

Also noting that “many of the speeches were given in Spanish,” the Sentinel editorial said, “It would have been far more useful to give those comments in English” because the overwhelming majority of American voters neither speak nor understand Spanish.

Meanwhile, radio talk show hosts offered predominantly negative views about the demonstrations, and their callers followed suit.

“Many said that what was going on was terrible, and that immigrants participating should go back to Mexico,” said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine.

Jill Vitale, producer of the “John Gambling Show” on the powerhouse WABC station in New York, said Mr. Gambling told listeners “he was disgusted and that all immigrants who stayed away from work Monday should be fired.” Only one listener called to condemn Mr. Gambling’s remarks as too harsh, Miss Vitale said.

Guests on the Gambling show, conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan and Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, shared the talk host’s concerns about the influx of illegal aliens.

“Monday’s demonstrations showed that the situation is worse than we thought and that where illegals are concerned, we need tough legislation,” Mr. King said.

Mr. Buchanan praised President Eisenhower’s 1954 implementation of a program to apprehend and deport illegal aliens.

“Ike was a no-nonsense guy,” Mr. Buchanan told WABC listeners. “We don’t have guys like that anymore. … We have a very, very weak government.”

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