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Thousands rally in US for immigrant rights

Rallies were held demanding green cards and citizenship for more than 11 million illegal residents in cities like NY and Washington DC.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 13:02 IST

Thousands of immigrants and supporters of immigration held massive rallies demanding green cards and citizenship for more than 11 million illegal residents in cities from New York to Washington DC, from Kansas to San Diego in California, from Atlanta to Georgia to Phoenix, Arizona.

In what is stated to be the most widespread demonstrations since the mass protests began around the country last month, the protests are an effort to overhaul US Immigration law.

But the Democrats and the Republicans are divided over the issue.

Organisers of the National Day of Action for Immigration said marches were held in more than 100 cities in a movement that is being compared to the civil rights marches of black Americans in the 1960's.

The marchers, carrying placards saying "We are Americans, not criminals" waved American flags and were mostly dressed in white to indicate they were for peace. There were no reports of violence despite the huge numbers protesting.

One of the first marches was held in the southern city of Atlanta where at least 30 thousand dressed in white T-shirts walked the three-kilometre route.

People marched in Garden City, Kansas, and rallies were held in the nation's largest cities too, like Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as those in between - like Phoenix, Arizona, New York City, and Washington DC.

The marches are the latest in a series of protests against a House of Representatives proposal that would classify illegal immigrants as felons.

The bill also would tighten border security and impose heavy fines on companies that employ illegal immigrants.

President Bush has been pushing Congress to pass a temporary worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to have some legal status.

He said there should be a way to formally document the estimated 11-million people who are already entered the United States illegally.

Responding to the public turnout, President Bush described immigration policy as "an important issue that people feel strongly about."

He added, "The good thing about a democracy is people can express themselves".

Addressing reporters after a speech he delivered on April 10 in Washington, Bush said Americans "ought to be compassionate about this debate".