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L.A. March Protests Looming Immigration Law


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Debbie Elliot.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators went out on the streets of Los Angeles, protesting legislation that would crack down on illegal immigrants. The U.S. house of Representatives has already passed a bill that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally and would penalize those who hire or help undocumented immigrants. The Senate is preparing to take up the immigration debate next week. Today's protest followed similar rallies yesterday in Phoenix and other cities, including Atlanta, where immigrants also staged a one day work and spending strike. As immigration rights activists took to the streets, President Bush took to the airwaves. In his Saturday radio address, the President said his administration is tightening border security, but he called again for a guest worker program.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: As we debate the immigration issue, we must remember there are hard working individuals doing jobs that Americans will not do who are contributing to the economic vitality of our country.

ELLIOT: NPR's Carrie Kahn was out with the protesters in L.A. today. I spoke with her earlier.

CARRIE KAHN reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOT: What's going on there?

KAHN: Well, there's still a lot of people in downtown Los Angeles listening to speakers, still with a lot of energy, chanting and the marching around the streets. A lot of people listen to the speakers for a while and then they walk a couple of blocks over to where one of the major freeways of Los Angeles are. They encircled all the off ramps of the freeways and sort of snarled traffic there for a while, got the truckers and other people to honk for them, so its still a busy scene here in downtown Los Angeles.

ELLIOT: Who's in the crowd?

KAHN: Well, the majority of people that I was able to see, it's mostly Latinos. Mostly people from Mexico. There are a lot of different Latin American countries here but it is mostly people of Hispanic origin. And they're here because they're upset about this proposal by the House of Representatives and they know that there's an upcoming debate in the Senate and they want to be heard.

ELLIOT: Who's organizing the protest, Carrie?

KAHN: A lot of different people. We have some unions that are organizing, some city officials. There are a lot of activist groups. You have a lot of hometown associations that are clubs that have nexuses with people in Mexico. A lot of people that are here have told me, I could tell you a story about this woman that I met. She was here with her five children and it was a quite a difficulty to hold onto all five of them in this huge crowd, but all of her children are born here in the United States and she is here illegally and she is concerned about what would happen to her family if this law were to pass. A lot of people have a lot of misinformation about the law, she was afraid that she might get deported.

ELLIOT: Is that what's motivating this huge turnout? Fear that this legislation might pass?

KAHN: A lot of people are unclear about all the nuances of this legislation, so there's a lot of different motivations. People feel like, they're telling me that they feel like they're being attacked, that this is a racist attack on Latinos. They feel that it's directly against Hispanics and Latinos. They say they're the ones who clean the office buildings, they're the ones who take care of the sick in this country, the ones who pick the produce and they're not getting the appreciation that they deserve.

ELLIOT: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Los Angeles. Thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.