Huge crowds march for immigration rights
Updated 4/11/2006 7:34 AM ET
USA TODAY and Gannett staff
Protesters gathered in farm towns in the Midwest and in the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan.
They demonstrated outside offices of political leaders and held vigils in city parks.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: Around the National Mall
Hundreds of thousands of people demanding citizenship for illegal immigrants rallied in some of the
largest marches since immigrants began staging protests in the past month.
ATLANTA: Demonstrators recall civil rights marches
In the hometown of Martin Luther King Jr., several of the thousands who marched in support of
immigrant rights compared their cause to the non-violent civil rights protests from the 1950s and
Alfonso Carrasco, 24, a senior at the University of Georgia and a permanent resident of the USA,
said he traveled last summer to Memphis and Selma, Ala., for a course on the rhetoric of the civil
rights movement. “When I was walking up and looking at this crowd, it was like, man, it’s the
same thing,” Carrasco said. “I see a lot of similarities between what happened with African-
Americans and the Hispanic community.”
Carrasco, who is Mexican, said he came to Monday’s rally to show solidarity with immigrants who
are here illegally. “I was able to get all my paperwork,” he said. “But what about children who do
everything they’re supposed to do academically, and when they finish high school, they can’t
have a better life? All that’s waiting for them is a job in construction or a job as a maid.”
He said he favors a three-year work visa for immigrants.
The Georgia rally carried two objectives: for national immigration reform and against state
legislation awaiting Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue’s signature that would require adults seeking
some state benefits to prove they’re in the USA legally.
One rally speaker, state Sen. Vincent Ford, an African-American, pledged solidarity between blacks and Hispanics. “You are not alone,” he said. “We know what it is to be a stranger in a strange
SCHAUMBURG, ILL.: Message makes its way to politician’s office
Tears seeped from Maria Mata’s eyes as soon as she was asked why she joined a rally outside the
suburban Chicago office of a Democratic congresswoman.
“I just want freedom for all,” said the 14-year-old from nearby Round Lake Beach, who came to
the USA from Mexico with her parents a decade ago. “We just want to work. We are not bad
The protest outside the office of U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., drew about 60 people upset by
Bean’s vote for a House bill that would make illegal immigration a felony. Bean issued a statement
saying she stands by her vote.
“We are millions. Count us,” the protesters chanted. They carried U.S. and Mexican flags and
orange placards reading: “We are all taxpayers.” Another sign said, “Pilgrims had no visas.”
Some motorists on Meacham Road honked their horns and yelled their support.
Kenneth Ortega, 45, a lay minister at a Catholic church and a fifth-generation American, said he
was representing the Polish immigrants of his parish. “It’s only when protests happen that politicians pay attention,” he said. “Everybody has a right to be in this country.”
DENVER: Illegal immigrants add voices to rally’s cry
Sandra Briseno came to the USA from Mexico five years ago on a visa and stayed long after her
permit ran out. With forged papers, she has since made a low-key life here as a food-service
worker, wife and mother of a 3-year-old son, Leonardo.
Briseno, 36, emerged from the shadows Monday to join an impromptu rally downtown.
“I needed to be here,” she said about giving up a day’s pay. “We need to make noise to get a
good answer in two weeks” when Congress returns to grapple again with immigration reform.
“I know I’m breaking the law,” Briseno said of the fake documents that allowed her to find
work, “but this is the only way I can get money to survive. We just want to work, to get a better life that we cannot get in our own country. We are hard workers.”
The main event here was to be a candlelight vigil to remember illegal immigrants who died trying
to enter the USA. But word-of-mouth about the vigil prompted the midday march, which
attracted several thousand people.
WASHINGTON: National Mall is site of international plea
From her grassy spot on the National Mall, Rosa Asitimbay, 30, pointed at the U.S. Capitol. “I hope they notice,” she said.
Although Congress is out of town, on a two-week recess, Asitimbay and her two sisters say it will
be hard for politicians to overlook the tens of thousands of people who rallied near the Capitol for
Asitimbay, born in Ecuador, has lived in the USA for 17 years. Her father waited years for
citizenship. And she remembers vividly the day 10 years ago when she became a citizen.
“It’s an important thing. It’s exciting. I can vote,” she said. She wants the same thing for her
cousins who she says came to the USA illegally. “They are not criminals. They are not terrorists.
They need rights. We are all human.”
LOS ANGELES: Different faces, stories color downtown scene
In a downtown plaza on the spot where 45 colonists from Mexico founded this city in 1781, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Cardinal Roger Mahony joined thousands demonstrating for immigration
Unlike a much larger demonstration here March 25, few Mexican flags were visible. U.S. flags
Though most demonstrators were Hispanic, organizers sought to emphasize that not all of Los
Angeles’ undocumented immigrants are Hispanic. Asians, who haven’t been prominent at previous demonstrations here, took a leading role.
Buses brought several hundred Korean, Chinese and Filipino immigrants from the Koreatown
district. A Korean-language cable TV network covered the event live.
Eun Sook Lee, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, said that immigrants from Asia who illegally cross U.S. borders or overstay visas get less
attention than Hispanics. The two groups of immigrants “are similar,” she said. “They work hard,
and they’re looking for a better life.”
NEW YORK: Some find hope for the future on Broadway
Elizabeth Jacome wasn’t exactly thrilled to see so many American flags, at least one nearly as wide as the street itself, hoisted high above Broadway as thousands packed into Lower Manhattan.
Jacome carried two other flags, one Ecuadorian, one Mexican. “I guess they want to feel a part of this country,” said Jacome, 20, a junior at Columbia University. “I’m against this country.”
Her parents are Ecuadorian, she was born here and lives in the Bronx — yet Jacome considers herself Mexican, because that’s the community and culture she grew up around. She works in the
office of a bakery alongside many Mexicans. “America? I don’t know what America is. I’m an
Still, the throngs that inched down Broadway to City Hall seemed to move as a massive unit to
the beat of drums, trumpets and the occasional sax, with the Stars and Stripes the common
denominator. Chris Calderone bent over a police barricade to purchase a Peruvian flag. He was
already clutching a much smaller U.S. flag. “Both of them are important,” said Calderone, 16, who
skipped school to attend the rally.
Dual identities were celebrated all along the route. “We are Irish, but we want to be a part of
America,” explained Valerie Tangney, 26, who, with her employer’s support, took off the
afternoon from her nanny job to attend. “It’s very hopeful when you see such a turnout, and so many nationalities.”
PHOENIX: Opposing viewpoints, same peaceful route
Steve Campbell stood in the path of demonstrators in downtown Phoenix, holding a cardboard
sign that read, “Close the border.”
Next to him, another man held a sign saying, “No amnesty.”
But as the throng of marchers neared, Campbell willingly moved to a spot only yards away, and they passed by peacefully, shouting, “USA!” and “Si se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”)
All along the 2 1/2-mile route from the Arizona State Fairgrounds to the state Capitol, police reported no problems with protesters rallying in support of legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon credited “a lot of good planning.”
Police and city officials estimated the crowd at more than 100,000 people. No arrests had been
made by late Monday afternoon.
When one protester taunted a counterdemonstrator with a Mexican flag, an elderly woman
stepped out from the crowd.
“Just walk,” she said.
Contributing: Olivia Barker in New York City; Larry Copeland in Atlanta; Martin Kasindorf in Los
Angeles; Judy Keen in Schaumburg, Ill.; Donna Leinwand in Washington; Patrick O’Driscoll in
Denver; and Judi Villa of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.
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