Several thousand march in Seattle in support of immigration changes
Several thousand people marched to Westlake Park this afternoon in a loud but orderly show of support for federal legislation that would...
Seattle Times staff reporters
Several thousand people marched to Westlake Park this afternoon in a loud but orderly show of support for federal legislation that would give illegal immigrants and their families a shot at becoming legal residents.
The so-called May Day rally and march, the second in as many years, began at Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion at 3 p.m. Organizers were anticipating a crowd of up to 10,000 but it appeared smaller -- about 5,000, by some estimates.
Last year's demonstration was considerably bigger, with crowd estimates varying greatly but some as high as 65,000.
Among the first speakers at the rally preceding the march was Jorge Quiroga, president of Comite por Amnistia General & Justicia Social, a Seattle-based network of community groups that support immigrants' rights. The network organized today's events.
"Today, what we're hoping people will realize is the people marching are human beings," he said. "There are no illegal aliens. There are fathers, mothers, children."
As the crowd marched to Westlake Park, onlookers filled the sidewalks and looked out from offices and condos. The marchers were escorted by dozens of Seattle police officers -- on foot, bicycles, motorcycles and in patrol cars.
Organizers carried bullhorns, and some marchers clanged cymbals or beat drums. The demonstration was punctuated by chants, including "Si se puede!" -- We can do it!
While most marchers were young and Latino, the crowd was diverse. Parents pushed babies in strollers. People in wheelchairs participated.
The event was sponsored by some 20 organizations that are advocates for faith, organized labor, social justice and immigrant rights. "We need comprehensive immigration reform," said one marcher, Adriana Romano, 28, who was there with her husband, Alejandro Romano. He took half the day off from his construction job to march today.
Miranda Latourelle, 32, pushed her daughter in a stroller. What the federal government is doing is wrong, she said: "I don't believe in deporting people without due process."
Among those protesting the marchers was Bryce Jones, 42, of Seattle. Jones said he has unemployed friends looking for casual labor jobs "and they have to compete with 50 Mexicans -- all of them illegal. It's ludicrous.
"I spent 13 years in the military and this is the first time I have ever protested anything," Jones said.
From Westlake, the marchers headed back to Seattle Center, arriving by about 5:30 p.m. for speeches -- most in Spanish -- from local leaders and organizers.
King County Metro issued a warning to commuters that the rally would likely delay their trips home. Another event that will snarl traffic is a Mariners game starting at 7:05 p.m.
During the march, no buses or traffic were allowed to cross Fourth or Fifth between Pine and Mercer streets, but traffic and buses were moving again before 6 p.m.
While advocates said there is hope this year for comprehensive immigration changes, organizers are still nervous because of a federal decision to step up work-site raids.
"People are more on the edge," Hillary Stern, executive director of Casa Latina, one of the rally's organizers, said before the event began.
Deportations, she said, "are touching people much closer to home. So the message has shifted to stopping the deportation until there's a solution to the problem. Enforcing the current laws is not a solution. It's terrorizing those who are here."
Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said, "Not enforcing the law is not an option."
There were protests today in more than 75 cities across the United States, including New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Mexico.
Rallies this year were aimed at supporting many ideas embodied in a proposed bipartisan bill in Congress. The Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007, or STRIVE act, would offer the prospect of legal residence, and eventual citizenship, to an estimated 12 million people now illegally in the United States, provided they meet certain requirements.
Those include proof of employment and no felony convictions. The bill also would create a temporary guest-worker program.
But the bill first would require the government to step up enforcement against illegal immigration along and within the nation's borders, and would require certain employers to participate in a federal program for verifying that workers have permission to work here.
Threats last year by Republicans in the U.S. House to deport all those who illegally reside in the United States sparked outrage in the Latino community, which mobilized peaceful protests in cities of all sizes.
Last year, a rally in Seattle on April 10 clogged downtown traffic; there were no arrests of protesters. A subsequent boycotting of work May 1 by an estimated 65,000 marchers in Seattle led to temporary shutdowns at factories, warehouses and construction sites in the Puget Sound area.
Illegal immigrants have become a substantial share of the U.S. work force in many industries, including farming, construction and food processing.
In the 2000 U.S. Census, 441,509 Latinos of all races were living in Washington, the largest of any minority group in the state. Fewer than half of them live in the Puget Sound region, where many work in the construction and landscape industries, in restaurant kitchens or in hospitals.
A Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Pew Hispanic Center, has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 Washington state residents are in this country illegally.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.