Huge Protests For Immigrants' Rights

Protesters march in Tyler, Texas, Monday, April 10, 2006, in protest over immigration laws being considered in Washington, D.C. (AP/Tyler Morning Telegraph/Tom Worner)
Thousands of demonstrators wearing white T-shirts and waving signs and American flags filled the streets of an immigrant neighborhood Monday for the first of dozens of marches planned in a national day of action billed as a "campaign for immigrants' dignity."

The two-mile Atlanta march was in support of immigrant rights nationally as well as in protest of state legislation awaiting Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature. If signed, it would require that adults seeking many state-administered benefits prove they are in the country legally.

Carlos Carrera, a construction worker from Mexico, held a large banner that read: "We are not criminals. Give us a chance for a better life."

"We would like them to let us work with dignity. We want to progress along with this country," Carrera said. He said he had been in the United States for 20 years.

In Pittsburgh, a smaller group marched to Sen. Arlen Specter's office.

"We all know pay is not the same everywhere and lot of people won't work for the minimum here, so if they won't take the job, what's the problem?" said 47-year-old Jose Salazar.

Similar marches were planned for New York, Washington, D.C, and dozens of other cities.

Monday's demonstrations followed a day of rallies in 10 states that drew an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 in Dallas alone.

In Salt Lake City, 20,000 turned out on Sunday, far more than expected, police said, and 50,000 rallied in San Diego. Other demonstrations were held in Minnesota, New Mexico, Michigan, Iowa, Alabama, Oregon and Idaho.

With an overhaul of immigration law stalled in Congress, demonstrators urged lawmakers to help an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants settle legally in the United States.

"If we don't protest they'll never hear us," said Oscar Cruz, 23, a construction worker who marched in San Diego. Cruz, who came illegally to the U.S. in 2003, said he had feared a crackdown but felt emboldened by the large marches across the country in recent weeks.

In Birmingham, Ala., demonstrators marched along the same streets where civil rights activists clashed with police in the 1960s and rallied at a park where a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands as a reminder of the fight for equal rights and the violence that once plagued the city.

"We've got to get back in touch with the civil rights movement, because that's what this is about," said the Rev. Lawton Higgs, a United Methodist minister and activist.