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Rallies Across Country Protest Immigration Policies

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

We begin our program this Labor Day weekend with a look at the campaign by undocumented workers to win legal status in this country. We'll be speaking with a top official of the AFL/CIO in a few moments.

But we begin in Chicago. Hundreds of demonstrations set out from the city on Friday, calling for immigration reform. They're making their way along a 40-mile stretch through the western suburbs to a rally tomorrow in Batavia, Illinois.

We have reporter Michael Puente of Chicago Public Radio on the line.

Michael, what was the message from marchers there today?

MICHAEL PUENTE reporting:

Well, their message is basically that they want to take their message to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who represents the district that they're heading to and basically to call for a thorough debate on the immigration issue and a push to help those who are here illegally in this country to find them a pathway to citizenship. That's their main goal in all this.

ELLIOTT: Who was in the crowd today?

PUENTE: Well, you had about 250 people who started off from a mosque in Villa Park, Illinois. You had a wide range of folks. You had some Latinos but also you had a number of other ethnic groups, including Chinese, Korean, some Polish and Serbian. The organizers really want to try to get the message across that this issue affects more than just Hispanics in this country. It affects different groups. You had a lot of children involved in this rally today. A lot of them were holding flags and waving American flags and the blue United Nations flag. So that was kind of interesting.

ELLIOTT: What about counter demonstrations?

PUENTE: Well, there's been sporadic demonstrations - not too much - along some of the routes. Going through Chicago, everything was going pretty fine.

Along some of the more suburban areas, you've had some neighbors who have put up their own kind of makeshift signs saying - some of them saying Legal Immigrants Are Welcome to This Country. Illegal Immigrants Have To Go.

This morning there was about five counter-demonstrators, very small group, with their own signs shouting certain things to the group like, illegal immigrants go home, honk for deportation.

One woman suggested that illegal immigrants should at least try to serve in the military as a way to win citizenship.

ELLIOTT: The march will continue tomorrow. What's expected then?

PUENTE: Well, organizers are expecting up to 5,000 people to show up to the district office in Batavia, Illinois of House speaker Dennis Hastert. They're going to hold a rally. They're going to have various speakers. And they're just going to try to get their message across to them.

ELLIOTT: Michael Puente of Chicago Public Radio.

Thank you so much.

PUENTE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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