Thousands march in US to protest new immigration laws

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In the largest demonstration in California's history, well over half a million people marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday March 25, in defence of immigrant rights and to protest the government attacks on immigrants, especially undocumented workers.

The demonstration was the culmination of two weeks of protest demonstrations against new US immigration legislation, passed by the House of Representatives and scheduled to be taken up Monday by the US Senate.

The new legislation would make illegal immigration a felony crime, as well as criminalising all those who aide illegal immigrants.

Those charged would also include social services and charity workers who operate soup kitchens, homeless shelters and emergency clinics aiding illegal migrants.

.Another 50,000 people marched in Denver, Colorado, in what was likely the largest demonstration in that city's history. Twenty thousand marched in Phoenix, and marches were also held in Charlotte, North Carolina, Milwakee, Wisconsin, and in Sacramento, California.

According to organisers, the total number participating in the Los Angeles march may have exceeded 1 million. The majority of the participating were Hispanic and Latin Americans.

The Bill HR3447 was one of the main targets of the protest. It is also known as the Sensenbrenner-King Bill, which the House of Representatives passed last December under the main sponsorship of Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner.

Not only would the bill crack down on employers and businesses that hire undocumented immigrants, but it would also make anyone who assists them, or anyone who enters this country illegally, a felon. It would also expand enforcement of the law all along the border between the United and Mexico, which means erecting a fence 700 miles long.

A bill sponsored by Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican John McCain of Arizona has attracted the most Democratic Party support, including a temporary guest worker program, which would turn millions of immigrants into a short-term, easily exploited labor force.

While the bill had the support of the House Republican leadership, both the Senate Republican leadership and the Bush administration have expressed reservations. They have concerns that business interests will suffer in areas that need immigrant workers to keep operating.

Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is crafting a compromise bill that would require participants in a guest worker program to leave the United States after six years. They would have to remain in their country of origin for one year before being allowed back into the United States. This is closer to the position of the White House, but still evokes some opposition from employer groups fearful of the disruptive effect of such a turnover in their labor force