Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigrant March May 1, 2006

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Nationwide, a call for immigrant rights

By Michael Martinez
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 1, 2006, 2:51 PM CDT

LOS ANGELES -- From Chicago to Los Angeles, New York to New Orleans, and Miami to Denver, hundreds of thousands of predominantly Hispanic immigrants walked off their jobs, skipped school and demonstrated with friends and family members in a nationwide show of solidarity for immigration reform today.

The so-called "Day Without Immigrants" was intended as a nationwide boycott to demonstrate the importance of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, to the nation's workforce and its economy. It sparked divisions among Americans, debate on talk radio and even a split among the organizations sponsoring it, many of whom were divided over whether it might cause a backlash against immigrants across the country.

An estimated 300,000 people had gathered by early afternoon in Chicago and hundreds of thousands more were expected later at rallies in New York City and Los Angeles. Smaller rallies were planned in 50 other cities, even in such far-flung places as Connecticut and South Dakota.

"We are the backbone of what America is, legal or illegal, it doesn't matter,'' said Melanie Lugo, who was among thousands attending a rally in Denver with her husband and their 3rd-grade daughter. "We butter each other's bread. They need us as much as we need them.''

Authorities were beefing up patrols, many businesses voluntarily closed, and hundreds of protestors began gathering hours early this morning in downtown Los Angeles for what organizers hope will be the nation's largest demonstration against anti-immigrant legislation. A similar rally drew 500,000 in March, the largest turnout of any city that month.

In fact, demonstrators will be holding two marches in Los Angeles today, the other beginning in the afternoon in the heavily Latino neighborhood of MacArthur Park. To be led by several local officials including Cardinal Roger Mahony, those demonstrators will walk down L.A.'s grandest course, Wilshire Boulevard.

In addition to many undocumented immigrants who expected to boycott their jobs to go to demonstrations across the nation, many high school students in Los Angeles also didn't show up to their classrooms, despite officials' threats of citing and punishing them for truancy.

Throughout the United States, the day is meant to be a moment of walkouts, boycotts and political expression. The daylong events have been called by some "A Day Without Immigrants," inspired partly by the film "A Day Without A Mexican." The rallies aim to put pressure on Congress as the Senate and House struggle to pass immigration legislation this year.

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