The May 1 rallies across the country were the nation's largest coordinated demonstration since the war in Vietnam.
Organized to show opposition to a House bill that would declare undocumented immigrants -- and anyone who helps them -- felons, the protests affirmed the need for intelligent and humane immigration reform.
In April, lawmakers attempted to pass immigration reform that provided a long route to citizenship. But GOP hardliners would not budge. "It is not necessary to provide that path to citizenship," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
But a clear path to citizenship is necessary. An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants often work in poor conditions for low wages and no benefits. Yet their contributions are critical for our economy.
"This was a reality check," Economic Roundtable President Daniel Flaming told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't wish away these workers. They are rooted in the community. Not everyone realized that before."
As part of the boycotts, Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat producer, closed nine of its 15 beef and pork plants. More than half of Perdue Farms' chicken plants also closed that day. And managers at American Apparel in Los Angeles, the largest garment factory in the United States, shut down to allow 3,000 workers to protest.
Like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the new immigrant-rights movement may come as a shock to legislators who have ignored or swept this issue under the table.
And like the civil rights activists, the immigrant rights activists will not go away until their legitimate demands are met.
Bernardo Ruiz is a New York-based writer and documentary filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.