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Rallies for Immigrants in Several Cities

In far smaller numbers than they did this spring, supporters of illegal immigrants marched in several U.S. cities Monday, calling for them to be given the chance to live and work freely in the United
( [email protected] ) Sep 05, 2006 12:10 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - In far smaller numbers than they did this spring, supporters of illegal immigrants marched in several U.S. cities Monday, calling for them to be given the chance to live and work freely in the United States.

Labor 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.

"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."

Crowd estimates for Labor Day rallies in cities from San Francisco to suburban Chicago ranged from the hundreds to the low thousands, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who gathered in several cities in the spring. Organizers blamed the holiday weekend and said Monday's rallies were less coordinated.

Immigration bills have stalled in Congress, where members remain divided over whether to crack down on illegal immigrants or give many of them the opportunity to become citizens.

In Southern California, about 400 people marched Monday, compared with the 400,000 marchers who had jammed a Los Angeles boulevard in May.

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.

Marchers in Illinois ended their four-day, 50-mile walk to the suburban Chicago office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Monday. Organizers said they were highlighting what they consider to be Hastert's anti-immigration stances.

About 150 people walked the entire route while others joined in 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.

Hastert's office was closed Monday for Labor Day so he was not there, his spokesman Brad Hahn said.

In Arizona, about 900 immigrant rights supporters gathered at the state Capitol in Phoenix by midday to protest the government's inaction on repairing what they called America's failed immigration system.

The Phoenix rally also drew 100 advocates for limiting immigration.

"These people are violating our laws, and they are taking away what belongs to Americans," said Michelle Dallacroce, founder and president of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens. "They come down here on our Labor Day and march on our Capitol. It makes me want to vomit."

In Texas, about 500 people marched to Dallas City Hall asking Congress to legalize millions of undocumented workers and their families, and a similar-sized crowd attended a Houston rally.

"This is the beginning of a new round of marches and rallies," Lorenzo Cano, with the Texas-based Nueva Raza Movement, said at Houston's City Hall. "This battle will not end in November. This is a fight for life."

Associated Press Writers Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix, Anabelle Garay in Dallas, Juan A. Lozano in Houston and Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.