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Immigration activists rally in cities across California

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POSTED April 10, 2013 10:26 p.m.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Demonstrators marched through San Francisco Wednesday in one of several rallies across California trying to shape the national immigration debate and press Congress to grant a path toward citizenship for immigrants living here illegally.

The crowd estimated to be about 100 people at the start of the march quickly grew to an estimated several hundred people as additional demonstrators joined those walking down the city's Market Street on the way to Federal Building.

Members of the expanding crowd chanted in English and Spanish and held signs and banners reading "Reunite Families Now" and "The IRS Agrees My Taxes Are Not Illegal."

"We are here because of our ancestors, our future generations and those who are detained," said the Rev. Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights in Northern California, one of groups taking part in the demonstration.

"We are here for all of our families," she said.

Another demonstrator, Eva Seligman-Kennard, a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, also voiced her support for immigration reform.

"We are all immigrants and nobody is free until we all are free," she said.

About two dozen police officers monitored the crowd, which was peaceful during the march.

When the demonstrators reached the Federal Building a little before 5 p.m. the demonstrators milled outside holding red and orange paper flowers representing the number of people deported daily for immigration violations.

The march in San Francisco comes after a Sacramento rally where about 50 people gathered around noon outside the federal courthouse downtown. Speakers at the labor-organized event said they want Congress to approve immigration policy that creates an easy-to-navigate system that won't break apart families.

One of the attendees, Rosa Torres, said she came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico in 1998 after her mother, who lives in Sacramento, had a heart attack.

Torres said she is the only one in her family who was born outside the U.S. and she fears that one day she could be separated from her 9-year-old daughter.

"I came over here to be with my mother and then as soon as I got here I started working," said Torres, 39, who does maintenance work to support her daughter as well as six nieces and nephews. "I don't come to live by the government, like welfare. I never asked any help for that."

Elsewhere in the state, several hundred people demonstrated peacefully outside the Los Angeles office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Activists also gathered for a prayer breakfast at a church in San Jose and rallied outside Feinstein's San Diego office.

"It's important to keep pushing for something that is more comprehensive, broad," said Jose Mondragon, 24, who entered the U.S. illegally as an 11-year-old and recently applied for a two-year permit that would grant him permission to work.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to support broad immigration measures that includes paths to citizenship. Advocacy groups repeatedly failed in previous years to garner such support from the Council.

"Their hearts changed, their minds changed, and they realized that we can no longer have boundaries in our communities," Christian Ramirez, human rights director of advocacy group Alliance San Diego, said to applause at the rally.

In Oakland, 100 to 150 people chanted, "We are people! We are not illegal," at a noon rally and march to the federal building


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