Thousands of supporters of an immigration overhaul held rallies on Saturday at more than 150 sites in 40 states, trying to pressure Congress, despite the partisan turmoil in Washington, to focus on passing a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living here illegally.
Hoping to display the wide reach of their movement, advocates held larger rallies in immigrant strongholds like Los Angeles, San Diego and Boston, with smaller demonstrations in places where immigrant groups have grown up recently, including Omaha, Neb.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Yakima, Wash.
Organizers described the events, and a large rally they have planned for Tuesday on the National Mall in Washington, as their major show of force this year. On what they were calling a National Day of Immigrant Dignity and Respect, supporters said they expected as many as 100,000 people nationwide. But the demonstrations came when few lawmakers on Capitol Hill were thinking about immigration, with the federal government shut down and the House of Representatives locked in a feud with President Barack Obama and Democrats over health care and debt funding.
Even while advocates have built up their strength — with a broad coalition of business, labor, religious and law enforcement groups calling for a comprehensive bill — they fear that momentum is slipping away for Congress to act this year.
"I know there has been a shutdown, but we want Congress to know that the time is now to act," said Evelyn Servin, an immigrant advocate, at a rally in Birmingham, Ala. "We don't want any more deportations. The respect we deserve is really needed here in Alabama."