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Protesters Seek Immigration Reform In Bay Area May Day Rallies

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- As many as a thousand protesters marched from San Francisco's Mission District to Civic Center Plaza Wednesday afternoon to call for immigration reform as part of a massive May Day rally.

The demonstration, held on a day that traditionally rallies around the labor community, focused on immigrants' rights as the U.S. Senate considers a sweeping immigration reform proposal.

The bill, crafted by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators, includes a path to citizenship for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

However, many at the march said they are concerned about those being excluded from the proposed policies, including same-sex families.

Amos Lim, 42, of San Francisco, came to the U.S. from Singapore in 1999 to be with his now-husband, an American citizen. Two years after arriving here his student visa expired and he faced possible deportation, but he was able to secure a green card through a job.

Lim, who was marching down Mission Street with Out4Immigration, said other same-sex couples are not as lucky, and need to be included in the language of the immigration reform bill.

"We are sending a message to Congress that they need to support our inclusion," he said.

The group is urging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, to include LGBTQ families in the Uniting American Families Act, which was introduced in the Senate in February. The bill proposes changes to immigration policy for bi-national partners.

Putri Siti, 19, who was planning to speak at the rally in front of City Hall, said her family faced deportation back to Indonesia last year because of their undocumented status.

As she marched with the group ASPIRE, or Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education, Putri said she came here with her family so she could have more educational opportunities.

Through help from a San Francisco immigrant advocacy group, her family was able to stay in the U.S. and she will attend the University of California of Berkeley in the fall.

"I'm marching to tell the government we need immigration reform now," she said.

Self-identified undocumented immigrant Emmanuel Valenciano, 24, said he used to be afraid of deportation and was constantly worried about the future.

"We try to stay in the shadows," he said. However, Valenciano, whose family is from the Philippines, is now urging others to mobilize.

He said he is marching to show that undocumented people are often criminalized and struggle because of a lack of job and financial security.

"We need a solution," he said.

San Francisco police cars and other vehicles led the crowd of demonstrators and cleared the traffic on the streets through the Mission District to Civic Center Plaza.

A brass band played music, hundreds of signs and banners were on display and many community groups lead chants including the United Farm Workers' rallying cry, "Si se puede," or "Yes we can," and "We are the people."

San Francisco Supervisors Jane Kim, John Avalos and David Campos were marching together at the front of the crowd.

Other May Day rallies were held in Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and other parts of the Bay Area.

About 1,000 people gathered at a May Day march for immigrants' rights near the Fruitvale BART Station early Wednesday evening.

The crowd surged in the plaza across the street from the station. Many said they were encouraged by the debate in Washington over immigration reform and were hopeful changes will be made.

Many of the marchers said they wanted amnesty for undocumented immigrants and workers and conveyed the fear of getting deported and how it breaks up families.

The marchers stopped by a Mi Pueblo supermarket, because the chain has come under fire from immigrants' rights leaders who claim that they've worked with Homeland Security to deport undocumented workers. The store, however, has denied those allegations.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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