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TheStreet Open House

May Day Protests Show Weak Immigration Movement

KATE BRUMBACK

ATLANTA (AP) â¿¿ While a black preacher told 100 immigration protesters that incarcerated blacks and detained immigrants faced similar challenges, Jesse Morgan stood to one side of the May Day demonstrators, holding a large sign that read "Radical Queers Resist."

Although the rally was geared toward illegal immigrants, the 24-year-old Georgia State sociology major said gays can relate, too, because they often face discrimination.

"And besides," he said. "There are queers who are undocumented."

Over the last several years, May Day rallies in the United States have been dominated by activists pushing for a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. But since 2006, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities across America, the rallies have gotten smaller, less focused and increasingly splintered by any number of groups with a cause.

In New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., May Day protests were dominated by Occupy Wall Street activists, a sign of how far the immigration has fallen off the radar, unable to compete with the economy.

Immigration activists say they are not worried about decreasing numbers at rallies because their focus the last few years has been more on getting eligible immigrants to become U.S. citizens and vote.

And yet activists acknowledge the threat to illegal immigrants may be stronger than ever with the U.S. Supreme Court considering Arizona's tough, controversial crackdown. In 2010, Arizona passed a law that, among other things, required police to ask for immigration papers from anyone they stop or arrest and suspect is in the country illegally. The Obama administration has challenged the law.

The court's ruling could have a far-reaching effect on a handful of states, including Georgia, that have similar laws.

Gustavo Madrigal, a 20-year-old illegal immigrant who attended the Atlanta May Day rally, said he keeps attending the rallies because he has "always been taught that an American doesn't give up."

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