Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Meanwhile, in the United States...

Immigrants ain't happy.

Hundreds of thousands of pro-immigration demonstrators mobilized on the Mall and in scores of cities across the country yesterday in a powerful display of grass-roots muscle-flexing that organizers said could mark a coming-of-age for Latino political power in the United States.

Calling for legal protection for illegal immigrants, the demonstrators -- the overwhelming majority of them Hispanic -- streamed past the White House in Washington, jammed streets near City Hall in Lower Manhattan, marched in Atlanta, held a small candlelight vigil in Los Angeles and, in Mississippi, sang the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" in Spanish.

Demonstrators massed in cities large and small. In tiny Lake Worth, Fla., several thousand legal and illegal immigrants, marching to the beat of drums, demanded fair treatment, with one sign reading "Let Me Love Your Country." In Phoenix, an estimated 100,000 rallied at the Arizona Capitol, with families pushing strollers wedged among construction workers, high school students and old men wearing cowboy hats.

The largely peaceful demonstrations drew only a smattering of anti-immigration protesters.

How does the public feel? Well, it seems divided:

The rallies came against the backdrop of fierce political struggle in Washington. The House has passed legislation to tighten border security and criminalize illegal immigrants and those who assist them. The Senate is stalemated over a compromise that would provide a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. President Bush has backed the Senate approach but has declined to pressure Republicans to act on it.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that three-quarters of Americans think the government is not doing enough to prevent illegal immigration. But three in five said they favor providing illegal immigrants who have lived here for years a way to gain legal status and eventual citizenship. The idea received majority support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. One in five Americans embraced the House bill, which includes no guest-worker program and would make felons out of those in this country illegally.

So they want to stop it, but they don't want to toss immigrants into prison. Seems to make sense. It probably isn't going to have as much impact as the scary nativism that House Republicans seem to be embracing, but that's Republicans for you.

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