Tags: Immigration | Activists | Spar | Phoenix | Rally

Immigration Activists Spar at Phoenix Rally

Monday, 04 September 2006 12:00 AM

PHOENIX -- Supporters and opponents of liberalized immigration laws bellowed at each other through bullhorns at a rally in Phoenix on Monday as pressure on the U.S. Congress to break a deadlock over a proposed immigration overhaul gathered pace nationwide.

About a thousand supporters of a Senate bill offering millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship gathered outside the Capitol building in downtown Phoenix on Labor Day, chanting, "We are America" and waving U.S. flags.

They were met by scores of angry opponents of the measure, toting placards urging authorities to "stop the criminal alien invasion" and "secure the border," who jabbed fingers at protesters and tried to shout down keynote speakers.

"These people are illegal aliens. They need to be incarcerated, fined and sent home," said activist Carol Hands, as she stood amid protesters shouting through bullhorns. Capitol police officers watched the groups in bright morning sunshine. There was no violence, and no arrests.

Plans to overhaul U.S. immigration laws have proven highly contentious, with opponents and supporters of a resolution favorable to immigrants divided both on the streets and in Congress.

The Senate approved a measure calling for tighter border security and a shot at citizenship for many of the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants that was backed by President George W. Bush, while a measure in the House of Representatives focused on narrowly on border security.

"We love this country, and we want a better deal," said Mexican construction worker Jose Avardo, 30, as he attended the protest with his wife and two children. "We want Bush to see us and bring us in from the shadows," he added.

CARDINAL URGES END TO DEADLOCK

The rally in Phoenix was one of several over the Labor Day weekend as pressure mounted on Congress to break the impasse when members return from recess on Tuesday ahead of Congressional mid-term elections in November.

Speaking at a Labor Day Catholic Mass at Los Angeles Cathedral, Cardinal Roger Mahony criticized lawmakers in Washington for dragging their heels over reforms.

"I say to members of Congress, you do not have the right or the luxury to let four weeks go by and refuse to deal with immigration reform," Mahony said.

Mahony, who has emerged as one of the leading advocates for illegal immigrants in the United States, said he sent letters on Monday to Bush and congressional leaders urging them to break the impasse.

In Illinois, meanwhile, around 3,000 activists gathered at the offices in Batavia of House speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican, and laid crosses to commemorate illegal immigrants who have died crossing the border from Mexico.

The current round of protests kicked off with a march in Chicago on Friday. So far, its numbers have fallen well short of those seen in the first round on May 1, when protesters filled the streets of cities from California to New England.

It culminates on Thursday with a march through Washington that organizers hope will attract a million participants from across the eastern United States.

(c) 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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PHOENIX -- Supporters and opponents of liberalized immigration laws bellowed at each other through bullhorns at a rally in Phoenix on Monday as pressure on the U.S. Congress to break a deadlock over a proposed immigration overhaul gathered pace nationwide. About a...
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2006-00-04
Monday, 04 September 2006 12:00 AM
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