Immigrants' Voices Heard Through Mass Protests

Thousands of immigrants in dozens of cities take to the streets to protest proposed changes to immigration law. In Washington, D.C., speeches advocating immigrants' rights were given in English and Spanish. Many protestors said that they couldn't vote, but they wanted their voices heard.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

I'm Renee Montagne.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in dozens of cities yesterday, to demand that Congress revisit the issue of immigration. The National Mall in Washington, D.C. hosted one of the largest gatherings.

Among the protestors, waving American flags and blue banners that read, We Are America, was Juan Carlos Ruiz. He's with the National Capital Immigration Coalition.

Mr. JUAN CARLOS RUIZ (National Capital Immigration Coalition): (Through translator) Today we demonstrate that the immigrant community is united and that we're going to spend our money to fight and help the immigrant movement.

MONTAGNE: Yesterday's protest followed weeks of rallies and student walk-outs, mostly by Latinos.

Victor Otiero(ph) is from El Salvador, now living in Virginia, and not a U.S. citizen.

Mr. VICTOR OTIERO (illegal alien): I think all politics know that sometimes we can't vote, but maybe in the future we will. Maybe not right now, undocumented people, but maybe in the future.

MONTAGNE: Organizers of yesterday's protest want lawmakers to help illegal immigrants become legal immigrants.

Gustavo Torres is with the community organization Casa de Maryland.

Mr. GUSTAVO TORRES (Casa de Maryland): We have 12 millions of people who are undocumented. They deserve to have a right, a legal immigration status. They deserve to have a path toward U.S. citizenship. And we believe that we can accomplish that when we mobilize our community and we work together.

MONTAGNE: The march took place not far from the Halls of Congress. The protesters arrived after members of the House and Senate had left for a spring recess. The protesters want Congress to take up the issue of illegal immigration when it returns.

To persuade it, marchers emphasized they are a political force to be reckoned with, chanting in Spanish, Here we are, and we're not leaving.

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