US cities brace for May Day immigration protests

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to rally across the United States Saturday in a protest at a tough new immigration law in Arizona that has triggered an outcry from rights groups.

Demonstrations are planned in more than 70 cities as Hispanic organizations mobilize to demand the repeal of the controversial Arizona legislation as well as wide-ranging immigration reform at a federal level.

Organizer Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association, said the Arizona law "only gives working people, immigrants, youth, women, trade unionists and their sympathizers more reason to march."

The rallies were being held "not only decry the horrible legislative act in Arizona, but to demand a fair and humane immigration reform by this Democratic administration in 2010," Lopez added.

Downtown Los Angeles is expected to play host to the largest of the demonstrations, with police saying as many 100,000 could turn out. Around one million people turned out for a similar rally in the city in 2006.

The law in Arizona makes it a crime to lack proper immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people are in the country illegally.

Civil rights activists say the law will lead to racial profiling but state officials have repeatedly emphasized that the bill expressly forbids law enforcement officers from stopping someone on the basis of their ethnicity.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has said the law, which has attracted broad national support according to recent polls, is needed to secure the state's porous border, one of the main entry points for illegal aliens in the US.

In Phoenix on Thursday, the wording of the bill was tweaked by legislators in a move Brewer said was motivated to make it "crystal clear" that racial profiling was illegal.

One passage, which read that law enforcement officers were prevented from "solely" using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country illegally had been changed to remove the word "solely."

"These changes specifically answer legal questions raised by some who expressed fears that the original law would somehow allow or lead to racial profiling," Brewer said in a statement.

"These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona."

Arizona's immigration law has led to calls for an economic boycott of the border state by cities and local government officials across the country.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined the protests on Thursday, branding the law unpatriotic and un-American, mirroring the stance taken by several other cities including San Francisco.

"While we recognize that we must enact 21st Century legislation to secure our borders and ensure the safety of all our citizens, the law signed by the governor of Arizona simply does not do this," Villaraigosa said. "The Arizona law is not only misguided, it is unpatriotic and unconstitutional."

Meanwhile Major League Baseball chiefs were urged Friday to strip Arizona of the 2011 All-Star game in a concerted protest.

San Francisco city officials called on MLB commissioner Bud Selig to move next year's mid-season extravaganza to a different state

San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and supervisor David Campos said the law was a "a direct threat to the fundamental rights of many MLB players and fans, and an affront to millions of Americans who are -- or who may appear to be -- of foreign heritage."

The Major League Baseball Players Association meanwhile said Arizona's legislation could have a "negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States."

Source: AFP

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