News for Public Officials

Mass Rally Shines Light on Need to Control Immigration


It was by far the biggest and most successful demonstration of the American publicís desire for comprehensive immigration enforcement. Hold Their Feet to the Fire, a joint effort by FAIR and San Diego radio talk show personality Roger Hedgecock, enlisted the combined efforts of the media and citizen involvement to drive home the need for Congress and the Bush Administration to enact an immigration enforcement plan that does not reward illegal aliens with amnesty, or undercut American workers with millions of low-wage guest workers.

Hold Their Feet to the Fire, which ran from April 22 to 25, included 37 radio talk shows, hundreds of citizen lobbyists who came to Washington and visited every office on Capitol Hill, and many thousands of people all across the United States who called, emailed and wrote to their representatives demanding that the government act to protect our borders and enforce our nationís immigration laws. The media footprint of Hold Their Feet to the Fire turned out to be significantly larger than the 37 radio who originated their broadcasts from the second floor of the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill. The event received national media coverage from all three cable news networks, CNN, Fox and MSNBC, as well as by leading newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, and many others.

For three days, from 5:00 am until midnight, three ballrooms in the Phoenix Park Hotel served as the headquarters of the biggest immigration reform event in history. With the expert technical services of Silver Lake Audio of Rockville Center, New York, 13 makeshift broadcast stations served as the home away from home for the 37 talk show hosts whose programs reached all across the country. As talk shows broadcast back to their home markets, a procession of members of the House of Representatives and Senate turned up to discuss immigration policy on the air. The dozens of members of Congress, including two declared presidential candidates Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who spent countless hours at the Phoenix Park, were coordinated by Kurt Bardella, press secretary to Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) who chairs the congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.

In addition to members of Congress, FAIR arranged for other elected officials, including Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Mayor Lou Barletta, also traveled to Washington to participate in Hold Their Feet to the Fire. As well as politicians, FAIR also lined up an impressive list of other immigration policy experts, such as Robert Rector or the Heritage Foundation, to appear on the radio talk shows. Guests often moved from one broadcast table to another, one minute speaking to listeners in San Diego, and five minutes later filling the airwaves in Boston, or Nashville, or some other media market.

Citizen lobbyists and activists also had their opportunities to convey the excitement and energy of the Hold Their Feet to the Fire event. Activists returning from trips to Capitol Hill were frequently grabbed by the broadcasters on radio row to report to listeners back home about their experiences while visiting congressional offices. Whether members of Congress and their staffs greeted immigration reform activists receptively or not was immediately known to thousands of that memberís constituents back in their districts. Adding to the energy of Hold Their Feet to the Fire was the fact that instead of the normal sterile radio environment, where hosts carry out their business in sound-proof studios, radio row was filled with the buzz of activists milling around the three ballrooms that served as the nerve center of the event.

While, often as many as a dozen talk show hosts were broadcasting their programs simultaneously, television cameras and sound crews, newspaper reporters and photographers were making their way around the hotel listening in on the broadcasts, interviewing the talk show hosts, or just about anyone they could get their hands on. CNNís Lou Dobbs, who covers the immigration issue on his program daily, included feeds from Hold Their Feet to the Fire two days in succession. Reporting for Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN reporter Lisa Sylvester described the energy of Hold Their Feet to the Fire as ďelectrifying.Ē

Most gratifying to FAIR was the feedback we received from almost every person involved in Hold Their Feet to the Fire. From the radio talk show hosts, to members of Congress, to activists, nearly every single person who participated came away from the event energized and committed to the effort ahead. As we move into the late spring and summer, immigration has become one of the key issues facing Congress. As a result of Hold Their Feet to the Fire, the network of groups, individuals and media outlets committed to looking out for the interests of ordinary Americans is bigger, stronger and more determined than ever.



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