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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Here in the U.S., it's been a year since more than a million people took part in May Day demonstration for immigration reform. Well, today the demonstrators are back but in smaller numbers - holding rallies and marches from New York to California. Downtown Los Angeles is one of the places where those events have been taking place and NPR's Carrie Kahn joins us from Los Angeles.

Carrie, last year there were huge marches in L.A. What about today?

CARRIE KAHN: It was pretty big. It's still going on right now, Melissa. But nothing like we saw last year. The streets are full. Everybody started gathering early in the morning. In about 11 o'clock this morning there was a critical mass and everybody started marching the 11 blocks toward downtown. And I say all 11 blocks were full, but you couldn't even move your arms last year. We were all walking so tightly together. There was a lot more room and a lot less people. And part of that is because there's two marches actually here in L.A. One that's taking place now, and then there'll be one earlier this evening. And that has to do with the dwindling numbers, I think.

BLOCK: Also, that, that seems to be a pattern around the country that the numbers form last year were nowhere near from what we're seeing. I mean, there were further greater last year than this year. What other factors play into that? What are you hearing from organizers?

KAHN: Well, I think, part of it - well, here in Los Angeles is that there's two camps of thought. What is the most effective way to push for immigration reform? Because that is what everybody is calling for - is some sort of legalization for this estimated 12 million illegal immigrants here in the country. And so, some people say it's marching, it's out in the streets, it's the sort of get in your face attitude. And then there's a whole other camp that says no. We need to get more civic participation, e-mail campaigns, voter registration drive. And so, there's a split and you hear that a lot. You also hear that people were afraid to come out, although the people that were here were not afraid at all as opposed to many people who've clearly told me their whole life stories and their legal situation. We're feeling very embolden to talk about a lot of things. So I don't think that that's a question. So, it's a divided movement right now.

BLOCK: A couple of other things that had been going on. There have been more raids at workplaces to round up illegal immigrants, and also tougher enforcement at the border.

KAHN: Right. And you heard - that was surprising to me. I heard a lot of that say. A lot of signs that says stop the raids. Stop the deportation. You're breaking up families. I've heard stories - I spoke to a couple of families where the children were U.S. citizens - they were born here. But their parent were illegal immigrants, and they said we're just terrified that something's going to happen us - being taken away from our children. We don't know what to do. They don't want to leave this country because they came here to try and better themselves, and get an education for their children. There's a lot of talk about the raids today, and that was much different than it was last year. And I think that brought a different group of people out this year.

BLOCK: Carrie, I gather that police officials and school officials there in Los Angeles were bracing for potential problems. Did any of that come about?

KAHN: No. Fewer than a thousand students walked out of their classes. A couple from the downtown area ran into us - a bunch of students from a local high school here. But nowhere near the tens of thousands that walked out of school last year. And the kids that were here - the teenagers from a high school near the downtown area - are very angry and hoping that something would help their situations and also their parents' situation.

BLOCK: Okay. Carrie, thanks very much. That's NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting from Downtown Los Angeles.

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