Immigrant Rights Protests Held in More Than 40 States

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LOS ANGELES -- Two thousand people, including hudreds of undocumented immigrants, took to the streets of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, to tell the U.S. Congress that "it is time" to pass immigration reform that would benefit some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. With songs like "Yesterday licenses, reform now," referring to the recently approval of California driver's license law for undocumented immigrants, the march was part of some 200 similar demonstrations in more than 40 states.

This time, flags of Latin American countries were absent and it was the American flag that took center stage, includng a huge banner of the Stars and Stripes that had to be carried by more than 60 people.

"In the last five years, more than 2 million people have been deported, and we cannot allow any more such actions," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Los Angeles immigrant rights organization CHIRLA, who led the march with dozens of community, government and religious leaders.

California this week legalized driver's lcenses for undocumented immigrants and on Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the TRUST Act, which prohibits local law enforcement from holding people for deportation if they have not committed a serious crime. But advocates said these state measures were not enough.

Los Angeles labor union leader Maria Elena Durazo of the AFL-CIO, acknowledged that approval of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants is a good step, but the next step "must be immigration reform."

"Without reform, abuses still exist for immigrant workers. We will not stop until the federal government gives these people the respect and dignity they deserve," she said.

Among the thousands of protesters was Vicente Morales and his wife, who came from the city of Azusa, east of Los Angeles, to join the march.

"My life is here, in this country. So reform is very important to me and my wife," said the Mexican immigrant who has lived in the United States for nearly 20 years. "We deserve to have a better job and the benefits that any other person has; we have worked hard to deserve this," said Morales.
 
"I've been 16 years without seeing my mom, just because I'm undocumented," added his wife, Marbella Zuñiga, who is originally from Acapulco, Mexico. "It is very sad, very unfair," she said.

The march ended peacefully Saturday afternoon, with a spirit of optimism.

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