BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Hundreds of people rallied in a downtown park and marched Wednesday as part of a nationwide May Day demonstration to show their support for changing federal immigration laws.
Participants in the demonstration were largely Hispanic, and many carried signs or U.S. flags and wore white in a show of unity.
Demonstrators shouted: “Who is Alabama? We Are Alabama!” as speakers took the stage for a program held in both Spanish and English.
Charter buses brought participants from as far away as south Alabama and the Tennessee Valley.
Cesar Mata, a native of Mexico who has been living in the Birmingham area for 14 years without legal documents, said federal legislation providing a path to citizenship would help ease the fears of immigrants still worried by Alabama’s state crackdown on illegal immigration, most of which was gutted by courts.
“If this … immigration bill passed, it’s going to change my life, 11 million peoples’ lives. We going to get out of the shadows,” said Mata, 35.
Many demonstrators carried signs with slogans like “Do not deport honest people,” and “We are all immigrants.”
The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, which organized the demonstration, said one goal of the protest was to show U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions that Alabamians support immigration reform. Sessions is among the Republican opponents of legislation that critics say amounts to amnesty for people living in the country illegally.
Similar rallies were held in other U.S. cities, and Mata said he hoped they would make a difference in Washington.
“We want the Congress to pass the bill, and we want the president to sign it,” he said.
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