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May 1 March for Immigrants in Houston – Most of the Press Got It Wrong

The march for human rights for immigrants and in favor of comprehensive immigration reform took place on May 1, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. in Houston.

The march drew almost 300 people from various groups. A handful of people against immigrants showed up to shout and attack with mega bull horns starting an hour before the scheduled march. After almost an hour of ugly, provocative shouting about hatred of immigrants, the small anti-immigrant group was silenced and moved a distance away by the large police presence. Their mission had been accomplished, however, because the reporters were enthralled with the noise.

Channel 2, NBC television in Houston, even though featuring those who shouted ugly things, kept things in better perspective than other media by interviewing at least one person supporting immigrants, who turned out to be Charles Whitworth. Charles drives the truck to collect food for Casa Juan Diego’s distribution of food to the poor. He stated simply, ” I like immigrants. Immigrants are hard workers and they are nice people. They build our houses, wash the dishes in our restaurants, trim the yards in Houston….”

Most of the press (except the news in Spanish) ignored the contingent in the march of immigrants in wheel chairs, men who have been victims of violence against them in Houston.

The television and newspaper coverage of the march, while emphasizing the negative small group, did show many of the large signs in favor of immigrants made by Mary Ellen Rouen for Casa Juan Diego. They said things like “Deportation Destroys Families,” “Dignity for Immigrants,”Immigrants are People, Too,” “Immigration Reform, Yes, Deportation, No.” She was unable to attend the march, but her signs appeared everywhere. The message on the sign on deportation destroying families (with a large picture of a broken heart) was quoted by the Associated Press and by a web site in New York City.

The march began at 2:00 at the Mickey Leland Federal Building and continued all along Smith Street. We were proud of the marchers. The marshalls for the march from CRECEN kept good order. The marchers remained calm even in the face of extreme provocation by the attackers who followed along on the sidewalk across the street. The anti-immigrant group brought a pickup truck with a sign across the back attacking the Catholic Church. One of their group threw a Mexican flag in the street in order to provoke a confrontation, but the peaceful march continued to Antioch park and the rally.

Speakers at the rally included a Protestant minister from Pasadena, Roman Catholic Deacon Sam Dunning, from the Archdiocesan Office of Justice and Peace, Sr. Jane Abell, O.P., Francisco Arguelles, representatives from student immigrant groups, and Louise Zwick from Casa Juan Diego.