Few people turned out for a rally in Los Angeles demanding amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants
Few people turned out Saturday for a rally demanding amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, the latest sign of pro-immigrant groups' struggles to regain momentum after hundreds of thousands marched for the cause in the spring.
Local bands played rock music, vendors offered chicken tacos and dozens of activists set up information booths in a downtown field. But only about 350 people showed up, and many were organizers and journalists.
Organizers, who had expected about 5,000 participants, downplayed the low turnout. They said their point was made even with sparse crowds.
"This community has shown it wants a solution, so we shouldn't have to show it with half a million people each time we do it," said Maria Elena Durazo, secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
The rally comes as pro-immigrant coalitions try to re-energize their campaign after summer vacation and internal divisions have weakened a movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in the spring.
The rally culminated this week's National Latino Congreso, billed as one of the largest gatherings of Hispanic leaders in decades.
Sessions included speeches and workshops on registering Hispanic voters, running Hispanic political candidates, wage gaps between Hispanics and whites, environmental issues and a lack of access to health care in immigrant communities.
But the week's central issue was creating new strategies to urge lawmakers to offer a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants.
"We need to frame this as a national security issue," said Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles. "It's ridiculous to have immigrants at airports giving their fingerprints when there are 12 million people in the country illegally."
The House passed legislation in December that would add hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and criminalize anyone who lent a hand to illegal immigrants.
That bill created a groundswell of anger in immigrant communities, leading to a 500,000-strong rally in Los Angeles in March that was followed by hundreds of other demonstrations across the country.
The Senate scrapped the House bill when it took up immigration reform in April, instead passing legislation that would strengthen the border and create a limited legalization program.
Since then, however, Congress has all but shelved immigration reform. And efforts by pro-immigrant coalitions to registers thousands of new voters has yet to take shape.
An Associated Press review this week of voter registration figures from Chicago, Denver, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles and other major urban areas that saw large rallies showed no sign of a historic new voter boom that could sway elections.
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