Tens of thousands of people demanding better rights for illegal immigrants have taken to the streets in dozens of cities across the United States. The demonstrations were the most widespread since protests began around the country two weeks ago. In Washington DC, marchers from the city’s Latino neighbourhoods filed past the White House and the US Capitol. Senator Edward Kennedy addressed the crowd in Spanish: “Thank you for demanding justice for all immigrants,” he said.It is estimated there are up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, more than half of them from the Hispanic community. The national day of protest was prompted by a law passed in the House of Representatives which would further close down the US border with Mexico, and effectively make criminals of illegal immigrants and those who employ them. The Senate has reached a stalemate on a compromise plan to create a temporary worker programme.