Demonstrators call for legalization of illegal immigrants in U.S.UPDATED: 14:31, June 25, 2007
Thousands of people took to the streets in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, calling for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Carrying U.S. and Mexican flags, the demonstrators, many of them Latino families, demanded liberalized federal laws for illegal foreigners here.
Some also called for "amnesty" for illegals, saying they should be allowed to become citizens without paying a fine or having to return to their home countries, as a proposed bill would require.
The march was organized as lawmakers prepared to consider again a federal immigration reform bill next week.
The bill, backed by President George W. Bush, would step up border enforcement while making it easier for illegals already here to become citizens.
Organizers of Sunday's demonstration said immigration laws should not only consider the financial impact but also take into account human tragedies that are caused by strict enforcement of existing laws.
Andres Meza, 41, said he would be separated from his 15-year-old daughter if he were deported. "I'm here asking for immigration reform, something comprehensive," he said.
Meza said he has been in the United States and paid taxes for 20 years. " We cannot travel (and) we cannot give our opinions in churches and in schools, because we are afraid we might get caught," he said.
But anti-immigration activists said illegal immigration must be stopped as the United States is a nation of laws, and laws must be enforced. They claimed that illegal immigration costs Los Angeles taxpayers 1 billion dollars a year.
A previous plan to overhaul immigration stalled on the Senate floor earlier this month. But different from its predecessor, the latest proposal includes tougher security measures designed to gain conservative support. The proposed bill includes a mandated 4.4-billion-dollar project for spending on border security and jail time for foreigners who overstay their visas as well as crackdowns on illegal immigration.
The fate of the proposed compromise bill remains uncertain, however, despite recent revisions and Bush's recent push to have the measure approved.
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