- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hispanic and other groups planning immigration marches and rallies today in dozens of cities concede that a replay of last years huge turnout is unlikely.

Still, organizers said the planned May Day demonstrations reflect a robust movement determined to win a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country.

“There was a sort of energy last year, said Gordon Mayer, a vice president of the Community Media Workshop, which helped groups organize the Chicago march. “This year, that boulder has split up into a lot of smaller rocks.”

Marches, meetings and voter-registration drives were planned from Oregon to Florida.

In Miami, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean planned to speak to immigrant groups. In Washington, about 400 members of Asian groups from across the country were set to lobby lawmakers. Two large demonstrations were planned in Los Angeles County home to an estimated 1 million illegal aliens.

Last years May 1 boycott brought out more than a million protesters across the nation. But later rallies failed to produce large turnouts, as legislation stalled in Congress. The developments have disheartened many would-be marchers, but organizers said the frustration with Congress also brought out new supporters.

“It used to be that Hispanic immigrants, those who came legally, were more conservative on the issue,” said Joe Garcia, a Cuban-American who heads the Democratic Partys Miami-Dade County chapter. “But now its become so wrapped up with issues of racism and identity, even Puerto Ricans and Cubans care about immigration.”

Yet stepped-up raids in recent months have left many aliens afraid to speak out in public a major change from last years rallies when some illegal aliens wore T-shirts saying: “Im illegal. So what?”

“The raids are intended to terrorize people and make President Bush look tough,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “But they are not a solution.”

Some Los Angeles-area groups called for an economic boycott and hoped for a repeat of last year, when thousands of immigrants and students stayed away from work and school in a sign of solidarity. Others have rejected the boycott. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, urged students not to skip school.

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