- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

From combined dispatches

LOS ANGELES — Fewer than 4,000 people marched yesterday in Los Angeles to demand rights for illegal aliens, one of the biggest busts in a day of weak turnouts for Labor Day immigration protests around the country.

“About 3,500 people turned out for a Labor Day parade in Wilmington, including about 400 people holding a Labor Solidarity March,” said Los Angeles police spokeswoman Martha Garcia. The figure is far short of the hundreds of thousands who mustered for the Los Angeles march around May Day.

Labor groups joined legal immigrants and illegal aliens in a boisterous march of more than 2,000 in downtown San Francisco, beating drums and singing in the streets.

“Treat us as the labor force that moves the wealth in this country,” Haydee Martinez, a San Francisco march organizer, told participants in Spanish. “We want legalization for everybody.”

In Phoenix, supporters and opponents of liberalized immigration laws bellowed at each other through bullhorns at a rally, with about 900 supporters rallying against a U.S. House-backed border-security crackdown and for a Senate bill that offers a path to citizenship to millions of illegal aliens.

The protesters chanted “We are America” and waved U.S. flags.

“We love this country, and we want a better deal,” said Mexican construction worker Jose Avardo, 30, as he attended the Phoenix protest with his family outside the Capitol downtown. “We want [President] Bush to see us and bring us in from the shadows.”

They were met by about 100 opponents of the measure, who heckled the speakers and toted placards urging authorities to “stop the criminal alien invasion” and “secure the border.”

“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. There was no violence, and no arrests were made.

Marches in the two largest metropolitan areas in Texas yesterday also mustered only a few hundred people.

More than 700 people marched through downtown Houston to a rally in front of City Hall. About 500 braved the rain in downtown Dallas to march from the Roman Catholic Cathedral de Guadalupe to a rally at City Hall. In Houston, three counter-demonstrators protested the rally, waving American flags and carrying signs asking for tougher measures against illegal aliens.

Organizers and immigrants say they plan to continue to campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, including an opportunity for most of the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegals in the U.S., most of them from Latin America, to obtain legal residence.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles and a supporter of the illegals’ cause, celebrated Mass for Labor Day yesterday, saying Congress had a “moral responsibility” to pass immigration reform before taking a break next month for the election campaign.

“Our Congress has exactly four weeks to deal with one of the most pressing moral issues this country has faced in decades. They do not have the luxury of turning this into a political game,” Cardinal Mahony said. “So I say to Congress, you do not have the right or the luxury to let four weeks go by and refuse to deal with immigration reform.”

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 more than a million protesters nationwide filled the streets of cities from California to New England. The current round culminates Thursday with a march through Washington.

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