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Immigrants to take to the streets in hopes of spurring Congress to offer citizenship path

Immigrants to take to the streets in hopes of spurring Congress to offer citizenship path

Immigration rallies held across the United States produced a fraction of the million-plus protesters who turned out last year, as fear about raids and frustration that the marches have not pushed Congress to pass reform kept many at home.
In Los Angeles, where several hundred thousand turned out last year, about 25,000 attended the first of two scheduled rallies Tuesday, said police Capt. Andrew Smith. In Chicago, where more than 400,000 swarmed the streets a year earlier, police officials put initial estimates at about 150,000.
Organizers said those who did march felt a sense of urgency to keep immigration reform from being ignored during the 2008 presidential elections.
"There's no reason a pro-immigration bill can't be passed. That's one of the messages being sent today," said Chicago protester Shaun Harkin, 34, of Northern Ireland, who has lived in the United States as a legal resident for 15 years.
"Us immigrants aren't pieces of trash, we're human beings," said Melissa Woo, a 22-year-old American citizen who immigrated from South Korea, carrying a Korean flag over her shoulder. "To be treated as less than human is a travesty."
Organizers had long predicted lower turnouts for this year's marches, saying an increase in immigration raids in recent months have left many immigrants afraid to speak out in public. That's a change since rallies in 2006, when some illegal immigrants wore T-shirts saying "I'm illegal. So what?"
Others believe that the marches have not pushed Congress to pass immigration legislation, and many groups are now focusing on citizenship and voter registration drives instead of demonstrations.
But smaller crowds does not mean the movement to win a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants has lost momentum, organizers said.
"People are saying we need to get together to demonstrate unity," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "But with so much happening, and so many concrete victories, you couldn't say the movement is weakening."
No rallies were planned in Atlanta, where 50,000 marched last year, because many immigrants were afraid of the raids and of a new state law set to take effect in July. The law requires police to check the immigration status of people they arrest, among other things.
"There's a lot of anxiety and fear in the immigrant community," said Jerry Gonzalez of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
A few dozen counter-protesters across the street from the Capitol got in a shouting match with some at the rally.
"I want to send them back," said Phoenix resident George Propheter, who held up a large handwritten sign that read "Hell No." "I've been in the city for 40 years. They've completely destroyed our city."
About 15,000 people marched in Phoenix, waving signs reading "Stop the roundups" and "The sleeping giant woke up forever."
"We are not criminals," said Roberto Organo, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who said he has lived in the U.S. for 15 years. "We are looking for work to support our families. It's OK for government to enforce the law but they have to give us a chance."
After last year's protests, reform legislation stalled in Congress, and bipartisan proposals for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship have gotten more conservative.
"If we don't act, then both the Democratic and Republican parties can go back to their comfort zones and do nothing," said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. "They won't have the courage to resolve a major situation for millions of people."
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Associated Press Writers Jeremiah Marquez in Los Angeles, Lisa Leff in Oakland, Michael Tarm in Chicago, Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix, Garance Burke in Fresno, Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami and Giovanna Dell'Orto in Atlanta contributed to this story.
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On the Net:
http://www.mayday2007.org


Updated : 2021-05-06 10:13 GMT+08:00