US Hispanics decry Arizona law at May Day rallies

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Angered by Arizona’s  crackdown on illegal immigrants, Hispanic protesters took to  the streets yesterday to de-nounce the new law and call on  President Barack Obama 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 “Over-turn Arizona Apartheid,” tens of thousands of marchers, dressed in white, swarmed downtown Los  Angeles.

In Washington, a US congressman was among 34 people  arrested in a protest outside the White House.

Dozens of protests were planned by immigration rights  activists in US 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 US-Mexico border state and they  want Obama to fulfill 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 US politics in this volatile election year. “Laws that make suspects out of people for no other reason  than the colour of their skin have no place in our country,” Los  Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Mexican-American, told  marchers packing into the city centre.

“We must show that bigotry has no place in the United  States of America,” added Villaraigosa, a Democrat who is one  of the most powerful Hispanics in US politics.

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