Immigration tops agenda in US May Day marches
Thousands of people took to the streets
across the United States on Thursday in immigration protests on May Day,
calling for a comprehensive solution to the country's immigrant laws that has
stalled in the US Congress, DPA reported.
Some of the largest marches, part of annual labour protests organized around the world, were being held in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. But the numbers were smaller than in past years, reflecting the declining priority of immigration reform on the US political agenda.
In separate actions, west coast dockworkers shut down many ports to protest the US war in Iraq.
The issue of migration has received little attention from presidential candidates on the campaign trail, while Congress has no specific plans to revive controversial legislation that failed in 2006 and 2007.
The debate collapsed primarily over whether to give the country's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants the opportunity to remain in the country legally and offer them a pathway towards US citizenship.
Some 20,000 people were expected to join two major marches in Los Angeles, where immigrant workers make up approximately half the workforce.
In a new twist this year, the marchers were backed by business leaders and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, who called for immigration visas, a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants and an end to immigration raids on workplaces.
"This is a landmark moment," Samuel Garrison, the chamber's vice president of public policy said in a news conference. "Here you have labour, business, local elected officials, immigrant rights activists and leading educators all coming together to say this has to stop.
"The raids are frightening workers. They are worrying employers," he added. "I think it's going to cause of lot of businesses to think twice about coming to Los Angeles."
Police are on alert and have closed many city streets to accommodate the demonstrations. They also have adopted new tactics after a disastrous intervention last year, when police injured marchers and journalists in a botched effort to disperse what had been a peaceful demonstration.
Jorge Mujica, an organizer in Chicago, said the message of this year's marches was "don't ignore the issue" of immigration, and to protest raids and deportations of illegal workers.
"It's not like you close your eyes and when you open them again we are going to be gone and the problem is going to be fixed," he told US broadcaster CNN.
Immigrant workers united with other minority groups for protests in New York, calling for unity in the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric and planning a march in southern Manhattan from Union Square to Foley Park.