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Millions in the U.S. protest immigration policy, 2006
On 16 December 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed HR4437, a bill increasing restrictions on immigration and undocumented immigrants. This was the first bill regarding undocumented immigration to pass through Congress.
In the spring of 2006, mass demonstrations occurred throughout the U.S., protesting the bill and calling for immigration policy reform. The protests involved millions of people and included marches and rallies through cities across the country. A significant movement involved in the demonstrations was comprised of high school and middle school students.
In the first major action of the campaign, on 10 March 2006, approximately 100,000 people marched in Chicago, Illinois, to protest HR4437. Hundreds of students from high schools around the city did not attend school in order to join and support the rally.
Following the Chicago demonstrations, millions of people rallied and marched in protests in various cities. On 25 March, over 500,000 protesters marched through downtown Los Angeles, California. On 27 March, students from high schools and middle schools around the country collectively walked out of their schools to protest the bill. One of the states with the most protesters participating was California, and over 40,000 students in the Los Angeles area took part in the walkouts. The students spread plans regarding the walkouts through cell-phone and Internet communication, primarily through email and MySpace. In each city students would march to other area schools to rally more students to join them.
Throughout the week, more students planned walkouts. In order to keep students from leaving, many school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), put their schools on lockdown, banning students from leaving their homeroom classrooms. The LAUSD further required that students remain for discussions on immigration reform and the consequences of walkout demonstrations. Still, students continued to leave schools, defying the lockdowns, leading to more walkouts on 28 March. Police responded by arresting students and issuing citations for truancy, and, in some cases, using pepper-spray and handcuffs. Some schools also threatened disciplinary action against the students. Walkouts occurred through the end of March and through April as well.
Campaigners continued to organize thousands of marches from March through May 2006. Another major day of demonstrations occurred on 10 April. In Atlanta Georgia, thousands of people demonstrated both for and against the movement.
On 1 May, protesters launched a nationwide boycott, known as the Great American Boycott or A Day Without an Immigrant. Undocumented immigrants boycotted schools and businesses and did not attend work. Millions of people marched in the streets in various cities, including New York, Las Vegas, Tampa, Florida, and Santa Barbara, California. Over 1 million protesters marched in Los Angeles, alone.
On 25 May, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, a bill providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants failed in the Senate. The debate on legislation around immigration reform continued after the demonstrations ended.
The walkouts had been influenced by the 1968 Los Angeles student walkouts for education reform, about which a film was released shortly before the protests in 2006.