Yakima May Day March Organizers Wonder How Immigration Climate Will Affect Turnout

Yakima Valley Spanish-language radio news director Francisco Rios remembers the 2006 march, headlined by the Yakima Herald-Republic. CREDIT: ESMY JIMENEZ/NWPB
Yakima Valley Spanish-language radio KDNA news director Francisco Rios remembers the 2006 march, headlined by the Yakima Herald-Republic. CREDIT: ESMY JIMENEZ/NWPB


May 1 marks international workers’ day. In Yakima, May Day organizers are pushing last-minute flyers before their march on Tuesday, May 1. They hope for strong turnout from farmworkers, the immigrant community and Latinos.

But some are worried the political climate will affect attendance.

In 2006, Interstate 82 was backed up from Tri-Cities to Yakima, attracting an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 people.

The Yakima Herald-Republic had headlines that read: ‘Sleeping Giant’ awakes.’

Twelve years later, May Day organizers aren’t sure what to expect.

Francisco Rios is the news director at the Spanish-language radio station KDNA in Granger. He’s attended and covered every march since 2006. And he points to the newspaper he kept  from that year.

It was before the election of President Barack Obama. Immigration was a hot topic then, and it’s hotter now.

Maria Cuevas from Wapato is encouraging marchers to show up. She’s 64 and has attended every May Day since 1986 when she marched with Cesar Chavez. She’s worked most of her life as a farmworker, is a mother of 9, and calls herself a local activist.

She hopes the younger generation joins May Day. Cuevas says immigrants, people of color, and other minorities are all in the same struggle for social justice and that they should make a human chain, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder.

“Pues si llega la patrulla? Sabemos todo no? A ver cómo lo van a ser? Y si nos meten todos, pues todos que nos junten encerrados juntos. Y si nos echan todos pa fuera, pues también los ciudadanos vamos pa fuere? Por qué no? Estamos en la lucha. Tenemos que hacer una cadena, de mano a mano y, hombro a hombro.”

“If the cop cars show up, we all get in, no? I wonder how they will do it?” she said in Spanish. “And if they put us all in, then I guess we’re all locked up together. And if they kick us out? Then I guess the citizens go out too. Why not? We’re in the same struggle. We should make a chain, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder.”

Francisco Rios says DACA recipients, or so-called Dreamers, have to be more careful today. They’re very politically visible at this time, he says. U.S. Customs and Immigration Services also has personal details like home addresses and school info. That’s why Rios believes many families may not come out to the May Day march.

Rios hopes the immigrant and Latino community will unite again this year. He estimates 500 to 800 will come out. Other march organizers are estimating up to 1,500.

The march begins Tuesday, May 1, 11 a.m. in Yakima’s Miller Park.

Copyright 2018 Northwest Public Broadcasting

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