CHICAGO — Angered by a controversial Arizona immigration law, tens of thousands of protesters — including 50,000 in Los Angeles — rallied in cities nationwide demanding President Barack Obama tackle immigration reform immediately.
"I want to thank the governor of Arizona because she's awakened a sleeping giant," said labor organizer John Delgado, who attended a rally in New York, where authorities estimated 6,500 gathered.
From Los Angeles to Washington, activists, families, students and even politicians marched, practiced civil disobedience and "came out" about their citizenship status in the name of rights for immigrants, including the estimated 12 million living illegally in the United States.
Police said 50,000 rallied in Los Angeles where singer Gloria Estefan kicked off a massive downtown march. Estefan spoke in Spanish and English, proclaiming the United States is a nation of immigrants.
"We're good people," the Cuban-born singer said atop a flatbed truck. "We've given a lot to this country. This country has given a lot to us."
Public outcry, particularly among immigrant rights activists, has been building since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation last month. Supporters say the law is necessary because of the federal government's failure to secure the border, but critics contend it encourages racial profiling and is unconstitutional.
Obama once promised to tackle immigration reform in his first 100 days, but has pushed back that timetable several times. He said last week that Congress may lack the "appetite" to take on immigration after going through a tough legislative year.