Labor Day immigrant rallies draw fewer supporters
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Thousands of immigrant supporters marched in several cities around the country Monday calling for the right of illegal workers to live and work freely in the United States, though the events drew significantly smaller numbers than the massive demonstrations earlier this year.
Participants waved American and Mexican flags at peaceful Labor Day rallies in California, Arizona, Texas and Illinois, with crowds of a few hundred to several thousand chanting “Si se puede!” (“It can be done!”) and “We are America.”
Marchers voiced the same message in demonstrations that attracted hundreds of thousands this spring. Organizers and participants blamed the holiday weekend and a less coordinated mobilization campaign for what they described as a modest turnout compared to the earlier marches.
“Treat us as the labor force that moves the wealth in this country,” Haydee Martinez, a San Francisco march organizer, told participants in Spanish. “We want legalization for everybody.”
Immigration reform efforts have stalled in Congress, where members remain divided over whether to crack down on illegal immigrants or help them on the path to U.S. citizenship.
Organized labor and anti-Bush groups joined legal and illegal immigrants in a boisterous march of more than 2,000 in downtown San Francisco, beating drums and singing in the streets.
“We are people. We are humans. We came here to work, not to steal anything,” said Carlos Rosales, 35, of San Leandro, a legal U.S. resident who arrived from Mexico City in 1990 and runs a trucking business.
In Southern California, where 400,000 marchers jammed a Los Angeles boulevard in May, about 400 people turned out Monday for a labor solidarity march organized by workers’ unions in Wilmington. Demonstrators there called for amnesty for illegal aliens and a moratorium on deportations.
Cardinal Roger Mahony told parishioners at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles that he faxed letters Monday to President Bush and leaders in Congress, urging them to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
“Without our immigrant population, this state would be bankrupt,” he said, drawing applause.
In suburban Chicago, immigration reform marchers ended a four-day, 50-mile walk to protest at the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The Illinois Republican has suggested fences, pedestrian inhibitors and the use of the Army Corps of Engineers and Border Patrol to help close off the border with Mexico.
About 150 people walked all four days and others joined along the way, culminating in a crowd of about 3,000 people at Hastert’s Batavia office, said Gabe Gonzalez, the midwest regional organizer for the Center for Community Change.
About 900 immigrant rights supporters gathered at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix by midday Monday in a peaceful demonstration of what protesters called government inaction on repairing America’s failed immigration system.
The Phoenix rally also drew 100 advocates for limiting immigration. Michelle Dallacroce, founder and president of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens, said the government has sold out its people in not adequately confronting illegal immigration.
“These people are violating our laws, and they are taking away what belongs to Americans,” Dallacroce said. “They come down here on our Labor Day and march on our Capitol. It makes me want to vomit.”
Construction worker Jose Lopez said he came to the rally as a way to protest the unfair treatment of immigrants.
“(The counter-protesters) think what they want, but they are more illegal than we are,” Lopez said. “They come from Europe. We come from the Americas.”
The largest rally in Arizona drew 100,000 marchers on the streets of Phoenix in April.
About 500 people marched to Dallas City Hall asking for a plan that would legalize millions of undocumented workers and their families.
Parents pushed children in strollers and ice cream vendors chimed their cart bells as they walked under the steady Texas drizzle, jumped over puddles and chanted “USA!”
Protesters shouted “Aqui estamos y no nos vamos,” meaning “We’re here and we’re not leaving.” Many held American flags or carried signs reading “With or without papers, they pay taxes,” and “Stand up for immigrant rights.”
A Sunday rally brought more than 1,000 immigrants and their supporters to the streets of Portland, Ore., to protest Oregon Republican Party resolutions to deny citizenship to babies born on U.S. soil to illegal and legal immigrants who are not citizens.
Such a measure would likely require amending the U.S. Constitution.
Associated Press Writers Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix, Anabelle Garay in Dallas, Alex Veiga in Los Angeles and Joseph B. Frazier in Portland, Ore., contributed to this story.
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