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May Day rallies take immigration fight to the streets

From Los Angeles to New York, Chicago to Houston, hundreds of thousands of protesters in dozens of cities are marching, chanting, and in some cases engaging in civil disobedience – mostly in opposition to Arizona’s tough new law aimed at stopping illegal immigration.

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At the same time, police officials are split over the issue. The Arizona Police Association supports the law, but the organization’s president – Chief John Harris of Sahuaritadoes not.

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Police remain on the frontlines of efforts to combat illegal immigration.

On Friday afternoon, Pinal County sheriff’s deputy Louie Puroll was patrolling alone when he came upon a stash of marijuana bales and five suspected smugglers who opened fire with assault rifles. Deputy Puroll was wounded and returned fire.

On Saturday, law officers apprehended 17 suspected illegal immigrants, three of whom matched descriptions given by the deputy.

Federal studies show that Arizona has one of the fastest growing illegal immigrant populations in the country, increasing from 330,000 in 2000 to 560,000 by 2008.

As of Jan 1, 2009, there were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Most were from Latin America, with some 6.7 million from Mexico and 1.33 million from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The issue challenges public education as well as public safety and local economies.

“The Arizona Department of Education recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English,” the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

“State education officials say the move is intended to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who speak the language flawlessly," the newspaper reported. "But some school principals and administrators say the department is imposing arbitrary fluency standards that could undermine students by thinning the ranks of experienced educators.”

In Los Angeles Saturday, singer Gloria Estefan kicked off a massive march through downtown streets to demand immigration reform and protest the Arizona law, the Associated Press reported. Estefan spoke in Spanish and English atop a flatbed truck, proclaiming the United States is a nation of immigrants – good, hardworking people, not criminals.

Cardinal Mahony stood on the truck chanting in Spanish, "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can."

IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border


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