Activists Nationwide Push for Immigration Reform

May Day demonstrations grew exponentially this year as tens of thousands of people joined rallies across the nation to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Over 80,000 people walked through the streets of major cities including New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Phoenix on Saturday, waving flags and brandishing progressive signs.

The largest gathering was in Los Angeles, where some 50,000 people filled the streets of the city's downtown area. A rally in Dallas drew nearly 20,000 people.

The marches, which were some of the largest on record for the May Day weekend, came following alterations of Arizona's recent immigration law, which had originally allowed for law enforcement officers to demand status papers at a moment's notice.

On Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a follow-on bill to the measure allowing police to ask for documentation only following a "lawful stop, detention or arrest." The new change, however, has done little to assuage the law's critics, many of whom have called the measure immoral and inhumane.

Despite vocal protests, however, results from last week's Gallup poll showed that the majority of Americans are in support of the Arizona legislation, with 51 percent of people in favor of the measure versus 39 percent opposed to it.

Meanwhile, a group of Democratic Senators headed by Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled a sweeping plan for nationwide immigration reform on Thursday evening. The measured, dubbed REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) included plans for a guest worker program, biometric social security cards, and large increases in legal immigration.

President Obama lauded the plan saying that the nation "can no longer wait to fix our broken immigration system, which Democrats and Republicans alike agree doesn't work."

The Rev. John L. McCullough, president of charity organization Church World Service, also praised the plan, but expressed concern about the proposal's "overemphasis on enforcement," noting that he and his group will be "working with the Senators to modify the very punitive enforcement provisions."

"We urge all members of Congress and President Obama to enact comprehensive immigration reform into law, and to rise above the politics of division and to embrace real solutions," McCullough said.

Echoing CWS's concerns were a group of Catholic bishops who also voiced alarm over the proposal's treatment of homosexual relationships.

"While we support the general direction of the framework, including a legalization of the undocumented and improvements to our employment and family-based immigration systems, we strongly oppose extending marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex relationships," said Bishop John Wester on behalf the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

"This proposal threatens to undermine the opportunity to bring together the Congress and the American people around a common solution to the important challenge of immigration reform," he added.

Wester concluded that immigration "can no longer wait and should not be politicized or held hostage to ideology. Our immigration system is badly broken and is in need of immediate repair."

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