Crowds Protest Immigration Bills

Waving American and Mexican flags, hundreds of Hispanics rallied downtown Tuesday to oppose immigration reform proposed by Congress.

About 450 people marched in a block-wide oval, and many clutched homemade signs opposing a bill passed by the U.S. House in December that would make illegal immigrants felons.

"They deserve the right to stay here and become a citizen like I am," said Saul Garcia, part owner of four Mexican-style restaurants in the Louisville area.

The Rev. David Sanchez, a pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit in Louisville, had encouraged people to attend the rally. Sanchez said many left work during their lunch hour Tuesday to attend the event, which lasted about an hour.

"It was a great turnout in a short period of time," Sanchez said.

In Arizona, a group of religious leaders and hundreds of others rallied outside the Capitol to ask state politicians to tone down rhetoric in the immigration debate, which they claim has become increasingly hostile toward immigrants.

They said the Arizona Legislature's efforts to confront illegal immigration are piecemeal and divisive, singling out a bill that would expand the state's trespassing law to make illegal immigrants' presence in the state a felony.

The religious leaders said the state's politicians ought to instead urge Congress to approve more comprehensive changes, such as a guest-worker program.

"If we don't pass such comprehensive immigration policy, I think our country will wallow in a kind of divisive emotional divide," said Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson shortly before a multi-faith prayer service.

Republican state Rep. Russell Pearce, a staunch advocate for tighter borders, said the Legislature is correct in trying to fix the problem because the federal government has done a poor job of enforcing immigration law.

"The people that want the rhetoric turned down are simply people who don't want the laws enforced," he said.