U.S. Hispanics decry Arizona law at May Day rallies

* Hispanic groups march in U.S. cities

* Widespread anger at Arizona’s harsh migrant law

* Pressure on Washington to act on reform

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX, May 1 (BestGrowthStock) – Angered by Arizona’s crackdown
on illegal immigrants, Hispanic protesters took to the streets
on Saturday to denounce the new law and call on Washington to
act urgently on immigration reform at May Day rallies across
the United States.

In a sea of American flags and banners painted with “We Are
All Arizona” and “Overturn Arizona Apartheid,” tens of
thousands of marchers, dressed in white, turned out in downtown
Los Angeles, where police expected “a very large crowd.”

More than 70 protests were planned by immigration rights
activists in U.S. cities, including in the Arizona capital,
Phoenix, where the governor signed the toughest immigration law
in the nation eight days ago.

Activists want a repeal of the law that seeks to drive
illegal immigrants out of the U.S.-Mexico border state. They
are also pressuring President Barack Obama to deliver on his
election promise to overhaul immigration laws. An estimated
10.8 million illegal immigrants live in the United States.

“What is happening in Arizona is making the community come
out to the street,” said activist Omar Gomez in Los Angeles.

The Arizona law requires state and local police to
determine people’s immigration status if there is “reasonable
suspicion” they are in the United States illegally.

Supporters say it is needed to curb crime in the desert
state, which is home to some 460,000 illegal immigrants and is
a major corridor for drug and migrant smugglers from Mexico.

Critics say the law is unconstitutional and opens the door
to racial profiling.

Polls show it has the backing of almost two-thirds of
Arizona voters and majority support nationwide. The law has
prompted legal challenges and hurled immigration back on the
front burner of U.S. politics in this volatile election year.

‘ABOUT PEOPLE’S SKIN COLOR’

“The law is racist, it’s about people’s skin color … we
need to stop it for the good of everyone,” said Juan Rodriguez,
24, a Mexican restaurant worker who was among some 300 gathered
in central Phoenix.

Music stars Gloria and Emilio Estefan helped lead the L.A.
march and hoped it would send a loud message to Arizona and
Washington.

“Every American has the right to protect where they live,”
said Gloria Estefan, a Cuban-American.

“But that doesn’t give them a reason to pass a law that
could create racism and discrimination against Hispanics who
contribute a lot to this country.”

In Washington, Democratic eight-term Representative Luis
Gutierrez from Obama’s home state of Illinois, was arrested
with 34 others after they locked arms and sat in front of the
White House fence, chanting Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes we
can” in Spanish.

Organizers had expected turnout at rallies to be at the
highest levels since 2006 and 2007, when hundreds of thousands
of immigration rights protesters marched in U.S. cities. Crowds
in most cities appeared to be smaller early on Saturday.

DEMOCRATS IN A BIND

Arizona’s law has renewed pressure on the federal
government to fix the country’s immigration system, and revived
efforts by Democrats to enact immigration reform.

Republicans in 2007 killed a comprehensive bill to overhaul
immigration laws, which would have tightened border security
and granted a path to citizenship for the undocumented.

A framework set out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
was quickly endorsed by Obama on Thursday, although it has no
Republican backing, and analysts see only a slim chance of its
passing this year.

Organizers for the rally in Chicago, where activists turned
out to protest the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team at a game
this week, said a few thousand marchers turned out.

In Everett, Massachusetts, about 2,000 people marched
toward Boston, urging a drive to legalize undocumented
migrants.

“People come to this country to work,” said Salvadoran Jose
Chicas, 38, who held a sign reading: “No human being is
illegal.”

Investment Tools
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, Bradley
Dorfman in Chicago, Jill Serjeant and Norma Galeana in Los
Angeles, David Schwartz in Phoenix and Andrea Shalal-Esa in
Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

U.S. Hispanics decry Arizona law at May Day rallies