Thousands of people across the countryprotested Friday against legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants, with demonstrators in such cities as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta staging school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.
Congress is considering legislation that would make it a felony
to be illegally in the United States, impose new penalties on
employers who hire illegal immigrants and erect fences along
one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border. The proposals have angered
The Los Angeles demonstration led to fights between black and
Hispanic students at one high school, but the protests were largely
peaceful, authorities said.
Chantal Mason, a sophomore at George Washington Preparatory
High, said black students jumped Hispanic students as they left
classes to protest a bill passed the House in December that would
make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally.
"It was horrible, horrible," Mason said. "It's ridiculous
that a bunch of black students would jump on Latinos like that,
knowing they're trying to get their freedom."
In Phoenix, police said 10,000 demonstrators marched to the
office of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, co-sponsor of a bill that would
give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country. The
turnout clogged a major thoroughfare.
"They're here for the American Dream," said Malissa Greer, 29,
who joined a crowd estimated by police to be at least 10,000
strong. "God created all of us. He's not a God of the United
States, he's a God of the world."
Kyl had no immediate comment on the rally.
At least 500 students at Huntington Park High School near Los
Angeles walked out of classes in the morning. Hundreds of the
students, some carrying Mexican flags, walked down the middle of
Los Angeles streets, police cruisers behind them.
The students visited two other area high schools, trying to
encourage students to join their protest, but the schools were
locked down to keep students from leaving, said Los Angeles
district spokeswoman Monica Carazo.
In Georgia, activists said tens of thousands of workers did not
show up at their jobs Friday after calls for a work stoppage to
protest a bill passed by the Georgia House on Thursday.
That bill, which has yet to gain Senate approval, would deny
state services to adults living in the U.S. illegally and impose a
5 percent surcharge on wire transfers from illegal immigrants.
Supporters say the Georgia measure is vital to homeland security
and frees up limited state services for people legally entitled to
them. Opponents say it unfairly targets workers meeting the demands
of some of the state's largest industries.
Teodoro Maus, an organizer of the Georgia protest, estimated as
many as 80,000 Hispanics did not show up for work. About 200
converged on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, some wrapped in
Mexican flags and holding signs reading: "Don't panic, we're
Hispanic" and "We have a dream, too."
Jennifer Garcia worried what would the proposal would do to her
family. She said her husband is an illegal Mexican immigrant.
"If they send him back to Mexico, who's going to take care of
them and me?" Garcia said of herself and her four children. "This
is the United States. We need to come together and be a whole."
On Thursday, thousands of people filled the streets of Milwaukee
for what was billed as "A Day Without Latinos" to protest efforts
in Congress to target undocumented workers. Police estimated more
than 10,000 people joined the demonstrations and march to downtown
Milwaukee. Organizers put the number at 30,000.