The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and erect fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border. The Senate is to begin debating the proposals on Tuesday.
On Saturday, thousands of people began to stream into downtown Los Angeles for what was expected to be one of the city's largest pro-immigrant rallies. Many of the marchers wore white shirts and waved U.S. flags. Some also carried the flags of Mexico and other countries, or wore them as capes.
Across the nation, thousands of people took to the streets on Friday. The rallies are expected to culminate in a "National Day of Action" April 10 organized by labor, immigration, civil rights and religious groups.
In Los Angeles, more than 2,700 students from at least eight Los Angeles high schools and middle schools poured out of classrooms in protest and visited other campuses, imploring students to join them.
In Phoenix, police said 20,000 demonstrators marched on Friday to the office of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, co-sponsor of a bill that would give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country. The turnout clogged major thoroughfares in what officials said was one of the largest protests in the city's history.
People also protested outside Kyl's Tucson office.
Kyl pointed out that most were speaking out against the House bill making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant, not his bill, which would also step up border enforcement and create a temporary guest-worker program.
"They should be pleased that the Senate is probably going to address this in a much more comprehensive way," he told the Tucson Citizen newspaper during a meeting with its editorial board.
Friday's Los Angeles demonstration led to fights between black and Hispanic students at George Washington Preparatory High School, but the protests were largely peaceful, authorities said, reports AP.
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