- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Activists marched on Capitol Hill yesterday to ask lawmakers to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for some of the country’s estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens.

About 150 protesters, mostly Hispanics, gathered outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters, where they carried signs reading “Legalization Now” and “Protect Immigrant Families.”

Demonstrators marched in circles, repeating chants in English and Spanish before moving to the Republican National Committee headquarters three blocks away.

Both parties must work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, said Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition, an umbrella organization that co-sponsored the rally.

“We want to reform the system so it doesn’t punish hardworking people,” he said.

In addition to legalization and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, comprehensive reform must expand the number of visas issued by the United States “to meet the demands of the economy,” Mr. Contreras said.

The rally, which was co-sponsored by the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, also drew Asian-Americans who earlier in the day met with lawmakers.

The Rev. Norman Fong, a Presbyterian minister, traveled to the District from San Francisco to participate in the events.

“We really want to support more fair immigration for everybody,” he said.

Some Asians wore shirts that read “Together we are Americans.”

Events nationwide were expected to draw far fewer participants than the estimated 1 million who boycotted on May 1 last year as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” movement, which called on immigrants to skip work to demonstrate their role in the U.S. economy.

Immigrant supporters also rallied at Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights and Alexandria City Hall yesterday.

The Los Angeles Times reported that organizers expected about 115,000 protesters yesterday at two rallies in the city, compared with about 650,000 last year.

Demonstrators in the District at times seemed outnumbered by the press and curious onlookers emerging from the Metro station across from the Republican headquarters.

“What do we want? Legalization. When do we want it? Now,” protesters shouted.

The demonstrations took place as a bipartisan group of senators discussed a compromise bill that addresses border security, work-site enforcement and the fate of illegal aliens already in the country.

The group is working to a meet a deadline at the middle of this month, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has set aside the last two weeks of the month for debate.

President Bush last year supported a Senate bill that offered a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. The bill was defeated by the Republican-led House because it was thought to be too lenient with lawbreakers.

Opponents of legalization plans also cite the millions of prospective American citizens who patiently — and legally — abided by the naturalization process.

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