'iMarch' For Immigration Reform Draws Thousands, Shows Social Media Muscle

Last week saw one of the largest social media advocacy campaigns ever, and Latinos were front and center in the effort.

It was a virtual demonstration in favor of comprehensive immigration reform that unfolded on Twitter and was billed “iMarch.”

Politico.com noted that it generated “thousands of tweets that landed more than a half billion times.”

“Beyond showing the muscle behind pro-immigration forces, the event represented the culmination of years of savvy and relentless efforts by Latino activists to mobilize supporters through social media,” Politico said, “and draw undocumented immigrants out of the shadows to maximize political leverage.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who has been among the most vocal opponents in Congress of any reform plans that would legalize undocumented immigrants, was the target of 300 tweets from people who oppose his stance.

“We have been able to move the needle through social media and that is the measure of success,” Politico quoted Elianne Ramos, a founder of LATISM.org, as saying.

LATISM itself, Ramos said, has grown remarkably. Established in 2009 at Latinos in Social Media, #LATISM appears more than 1 million times weekly and has a reach that exceeds 10 million people.

Hispanics have emerged as one of the demographic groups that have most embraced technology because of several factors – they are younger than the general population, and as far as immigration reform, young undocumented immigrants have used social media as a platform for pushing for legalization.

“One of the biggest success stories of Latino social media use has been attributed to the so-called DREAMers,” Politico said, using the term for undocumented immigrants who were brought as minors.

“They are strong proponents of DREAM Act, which is now part of the comprehensive immigration reform, and would expand access to higher education for undocumented high school graduates. They are young, tech savvy and highly organized.”

More Latinos on the Internet use social media than other groups – 72 percent say they use social media, compared with 58 percent of all Internet users in general, said a Pew Research Hispanic Center report.

As for Facebook, 54 percent of Latinos use it, compared with 43 percent of other groups.

“Our numbers alone won’t guarantee the Latino community’s full potential without an active community, fully engaged across American economic and political life,” said Jason Llorenz, director of Innovation Policy, the Latino Information Network at Rutgers University, “that’s what social media has given us.”

Latinos number 52 million in the United States.

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