Video: Did immigration protests make impact?

NBC News
By Ron Allen Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/2/2006 7:43:29 PM ET 2006-05-02T23:43:29

Burritos were back on the menu at the Blockheads restaurant chain in New York Tuesday, after some 200 workers asked for the day off Monday to march in the immigration rallies.

It cost Ken Sofer, the owner, some $50,000. “It has a huge economic impact on our business,” Sofer says. “Especially this time of year, which is our busiest time of year.”

Many businesses felt some impact in many major cities, but it was industries that depend on immigrant labor that were hurt the most.

Tuesday, it's clear much of the U.S. economy did not grind to a halt, as some organizers had warned, but they still were able to send a very loud economic message.

“The message is that if these workers were not here in these jobs on a long-term basis, the message that would hurt us economically, I don't think is lost on anybody” says Randy Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Hispanic leaders say they were encouraged that a normally passive community turned out in the hundreds of thousands in some 70 U.S. cities, including people in the country illegally. They now hope to turn that confidence into political power.

“Historically,” says Harry Pachon of the University of Southern California's Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, “what we've seen when this type of mobilization occurs is that there's been a spike in voter registration as well as in voting.”

Still, across the country, polls show most Americans disagree with the tactic and some in the Hispanic community, like Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., fear the demonstrations could cause a backlash.

“I frankly think they can be divisive,” says Martinez, “And they can be a way for people to harden their positions.”

And another question: Were decision-makers in Washington paying attention?

“What elected leaders are going to be watching is how non-Hispanics reacted,” says Robert Suro with the Pew Hispanic Forum. “Are they persuaded, are they moved to think more sympathetically? Or was it just a blip on the screen?”

Business may have been back to normal Tuesday, but this, no doubt, is not the last time the voices of America's immigrants will be heard.

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