Rallies across U.S. call for illegal immigrant rights

(CNN) — Hundreds of thousands of
protesters turned out Monday in small towns and big cities across the
United States, demanding that undocumented immigrants get a chance to
live the American dream.

Organizers said their
“national day of action for immigration justice” included events in
more than 140 cities in at least 39 states, with drum-banging and
flag-waving masses chanting “Si se puede” — “Yes we can” — in rallies
from coast to coast.

The events served as a visible demonstration
of political clout for supporters of the nation’s estimated 11-12
million undocumented immigrants.

“The sleeping giant is awake —
wide awake — and we’re paying close attention,” said Jaime Contreras,
president of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, one of the
groups involved in organizing the demonstrations.

The protests
began in the morning in communities on the East Coast, then spread
across the country throughout the day and continued into the evening.

Two
of the largest demonstrations were held in Washington, D.C., and
Phoenix, Arizona. Organizers said 500,000 attended the event in
Washington and 200,000 in Phoenix, although police did not provide
official crowd estimates.

In a nod to criticism of demonstrators
who waved foreign flags at earlier pro-immigration rallies, the Stars
and Stripes were on prominent display at many of Monday’s events.

In Washington, protesters held up signs proclaiming, “We Are America.”

“What
we want to achieve is to send a very strong message to the Senate, to
the Congress in general and this administration that immigrants are fed
up, that we are tired, that we work very hard,” Contreras said.

“We
come to this country not to take from America, but to make America
strong. And we do not deserve to be treated the way we have been
treated,” he said.

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