Immigrants Vow To Keep Up Pressure

Demonstrators march and chant at Liberty Memorial Museum in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, May 1, 2006, during an immigrant rights rally.
AP/Kansas City Star, David Pulliam
Illegal immigrants and their supporters vowed to keep up the pressure on Congress for reforms after more than 1 million people stepped out of the shadows and poured into the streets in a U.S.-wide show of economic clout.

From Los Angeles to Chicago, Houston to Miami, a "Day Without Immigrants" Monday meant a day boycotting work and school in favor of rallies and marches that filled streets for miles.

"We have far exceeded our expectations," said Mahonrry Hidalgo, chairman of the Immigration Committee of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey. "The events are intended to show solidarity and, at the same time, send a message that injustice against the immigrant community is unacceptable. This is not the end of our struggle. It is the beginning."

The boycott was organized by immigrant activists angered by federal legislation that would criminalize the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and fortify the U.S.-Mexico border. Its goal was to raise awareness about immigrants' economic power. CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts says illegal immigrants comprise an estimated 24 percent of farm workers, 17 percent of the cleaning industry, 14 percent of construction and 12 percent of the nation's food service workers.

CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports that in Los Angeles County alone, the economic impact of lost wages and lost business could reach as high as 100 million dollars. But, it's Latinos who took the hardest financial hit, losing an estimated $28 million in wages in Los Angeles.

Two major rallies in Los Angeles attracted an estimated 400,000, according to the mayor's office. Pitts reported the impact was felt on Los Angeles' famed 7th Street Market as 85 businesses closed. Police in Chicago estimated 400,000 people marched through the downtown business district.

Tens of thousands more marched in New York, along with up to 30,000 in Houston, 50,000 in San Jose, California, and 30,000 more across Florida. From New Mexico to Tennessee to Massachusetts, smaller rallies attracted hundreds more.

CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reported from Dodge City, Kan., where 15,000 Hispanic immigrants make up half the area's population. Thousands marched down Main Street, where usually busy Hispanic-owned shops were closed.

In all, police departments in more than two dozen U.S. cities contacted by The Associated Press gave crowd estimates that totaled about 1.1 million marchers.

The mood was jubilant. Marchers standing shoulder-to-shoulder filmed themselves on home video and families sang and chanted and danced in the streets wearing American flags as capes and bandanas. In most cities, those who rallied wore white to signify peace and solidarity.

In Los Angeles, marchers holding U.S. flags aloft sang the national anthem in English as traditional Mexican dancers wove through the crowd.

Rallies in Washington, D.C. were scattered, but the White House took note. Spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush disapproved of the boycott.

While most demonstrations were peaceful, a rally of 5,000 in Santa Ana, California, was marred by people hurling rocks and plastic bottles at officers. Police made several arrests, but it was unclear if they were protesters.