Thousands turn out for immigration march, rallies

May 1, 2010 8:45:42 PM PDT
Thousands gathered in Chicago's Union Park Saturday for a traditional 'May Day' march and rally.The marched ended in Daley Plaza later Saturday afternoon, where another rally was held.

An immigration law enacted 1,700 miles away in Arizona has sparked angry protest in Chicago.

"I'm Latino. I'm Mexican. I'm an immigrant, but I'm also an American citizen. I'm part of this society, and I don't want to be discriminated against because of the way I look or the way I speak English," said Jose Luis Gutierrez of the Alliance of North American Countries.

Union Park is the traditional starting point where demonstrators gather for Chicago's annual rally for immigration reform. The Arizona law swelled the crowd this year. Last year, the event reportedly drew a few thousand participants. This year, however, attendance was several times that. According to Chicago's Office of Emergency Management Communications (OEMC), the number of participants at Daley Plaza was at least 8,000.

The Arizona law allows law enforcement in that state to demand to see proof that a person is in this country legally, if there is reasonable suspicion the person is not.

That word "reasonable" is subject to interpretation and controversy. Immigrant rights groups fear the law will lead to profiling and harassment.

"What does an immigrant look like? I'm a Latina, and I don't look like an immigrant. So, what's the stereotype? That's the main issue here," protestor Hazel Gomez said.

"We're here not to hurt nobody. We're here to work and to have a better future," said Elizabeth Marino, an undocumented immigrant.

Marino says she has been in the United States nearly two decades and has three kids who were born here. She says she has been trying to secure citizenship for 15 years.

"I don't have a criminal record. I don't have nothing. I just want to be free walking the streets and go everywhere," Marino said.

"People clearly are fearing the impact, especially since there is growing fear in the communities," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat who represents Chicago and its northern suburbs.

Several undocumented immigrants took the stage at Daley Plaza, declaring, 'I'm undocumented, and I'm here to stay.'

"By deporting a bunch of people, that's not going to get rid of the problem. The problem is deeper than that," said an undocumented immigrant who identified himself as Mario.

Mario, among those rallying for immigration reform Saturday, told ABC7 Chicago he came to United States illegally as a child.

"My fears were confirmed when I was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I was, and they put me in detention and were trying to deport me back to a land I don't really have any ties to," he said.

Despite a day of national protests, and calls to boycott Arizona, its businesses, and even its baseball team, that state's governor says she's not backing down.

"I support it. I think the people of Arizona support it, and I believe the majority of the people throughout the country support it," said Gov. Jan Brewer. "We're going to stand up and push back and call on the federal government to secure our borders."

"Illegal immigration is siphoning too many funds from the taxpayers' pool, and it's got to stop," said Rosanna Pulido, Illinois Minuteman project director.

The Arizona immigration status law is set to go into effect in July, but court challenges may mean that will not happen.

As for national immigration reform, President Obama said this week he is not sure there is an appetite in Congress to deal with immigration legislation this year. That sparked some outcry. Now, White House aides say they hope to begin negotiations on a bill sometime this year.

Demonstrations held in suburbs, nationwide

Protestors also took to the streets in Chicago's suburbs to call for immigration reform. A large crowd turned out in west suburban Aurora for an event organized byt the group Stand and March. As the protestors walked through the streets, they encountered some opposition.

A smaller protest also took place in the neighboring suburb of Naperville.

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez was arrested during a rally in Washington, DC. He and a group of protestors walked to a fence around the White House and said they would not move until an immigration reform bill was signed.

Police asked Gutierrez to move, before arresting him and a number of protestors.

In Los Angeles, thousands marched through the streets of downtown. Singer Gloria Estefan kicked off that city's immigration protestm saying immigrants are good, hardworking people, not criminals.

May 1 is also International Workers Day, which brought out thousands of workers and trade unions all across Europe. In Athens, many residents are angry over cuts their government is expected to make as it copes with a financial crisis. Ssome protestors threw molotov cocktails at police.


Load Comments