An estimated 200,000 people have been rallying in California against plans to criminalise undocumented workers. It follows similar protests in Chicago and Texas. The mostly Hispanic demonstrators packed the streets in front of the Los Angeles City Hall to protest over Republican bills they say will hurt the estimated 12-million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The proposals have angered many Hispanic-Americans, a key voting bloc in November’s mid-term elections. Protestors say they want an immigration system that is humane and not racist. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed legislation that would make it a federal crime, instead of a civil offense, for undocumented workers to live in the country.
It would also penalize people who help foreigners. President George Bush has proposed a guest-worker plan but some Republicans say it would be a back-door amnesty and are calling for tougher border security and a crackdown on illegal immigration. Bush says strengthening US borders is a top priority and he’s defended his plans by invoking US history as “a nation of immigrants”.
The new bill would also allow for the erecting of fences along a third of the US-Mexican border. The Senate is set to debate the issue next week.