Firefighter Josh Balboa monitors the Harris fire in southern San Diego County. Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
'Keep out, help wanted'
Cardinal Roger Mahony spoke to the crowd of marchers in Spanish. "This year we really have three months. This congress has only three months to pass a meaningful comprehensive bill by the August recess," said Mahony later, summing up his main points to the crowd. "If they don't, they'll come back from recess with one focus--November 2008. And this will be off the radar.
"We have this paradox that Congress has to overcome. We have a fence along the border and we have two signs--one says 'Keep out.' The other says 'Help wanted.' "
Asked about the difference between this year's turnout and last year's, Mahony said, "We're in a whole different mode. Last year was more of a protest against the very punitive measure that passed in the House of Representatives. It was a reaction against the criminalization of people. This year we are more about getting meaningful legislation that deals with all the issues at once, not just one at a time."
Johnny Yu, a 54-year old Korean businessman, leaned on a newspaper box as he watched the marchers go by on Olympic. The mostly Latino marchers passed by scores of Korean businesses on their way to MacArthur Park.
"It's ok. It's just one day," he said. "They have a right to express their opinion and I respect that."
Yu, who is from Korea but now hold US citizenship, runs an international trading company. He said he doesn't hire illegals but ntoed that his subcontractors do. Immigration, he said, "is a very complicated issue. One sides makes sense, then the other side makes sense."
Sylvia Carranza, 40, a union organizer and South Central Los Angeles resident, said she joined the march to McArthur Park this afternoon to show her support for immigrant rights. Carranza, a second generation Mexican American, said the demonstrations show Washington lawmakers that people are paying attention and care about immigration reforms.
"For U.S.-born citizens, it is really important to participate because it's showing our representatives that we are watching," said Carranza, who wore a red T-shirt that said "We March today. We vote tomorrow." She said as long as immmigrants work, "they should have access to the same rights that we do."
Richard Abrams, 51, an opponent of illegal immigration who observed the gathering of marchers at 3rd Street and Vermont, said that all immigrants should follow the legal process if they want to become citizens. "My issue with illegal immigration is that it's illega. Enough said," Abrams said. "I'm personally bothered by today's march. I know it's not a black and white issue but gray.
However, if i went to Mexico and did this, would they allow it?" Although he supports the government's plans to build a wall along the border, Abrams said he did not believe that families should be separated because of immigration problems. "It's fundamentally wrong if you believe in families," he said.
Anti-illegal immigration advocates exchanged verbal barbs and taunts with immigrants in downtown Santa Ana Tuesday. As hundreds of people rallied for immigration reform, about 75 counter-protesters showed up at the corner of Ross Street and Civic Center Drive with placards bearing such messages as "Santa Ana, California, United States of America," "Patriotism is not Racism" and "Support our Police and Border Patrol." Among the advocates was Chino Hills resident Cherie Wood who said: "We're against the invasion of our country. We need them to stop using our hospitals and our social system. We have our own poor people. We are just sick of paying" for them." The group was not warmly received in Santa Ana, where 75% of the population is Latino and an equal percentage speaks Spanish. About 53% of the city's population is foreign born. When the group marched to the Mexican consulate near a local elementary school, children behind the school gates chanted "Mexico, Mexico, Mexico" at them from the playground.
Four of seven Santa Ana City Council members spoke at a rally before joining a protest march. One of them was Mayor Miguel Pulido, who last year was criticized for not attending a similar event. Pulido urged the crowd to send its message peacefully. "It's important that this event be peaceful," he said, "otherwise our message will not get across."
In interviews with Spanish and English media after his brief comments, the mayor said "we don't have jurisdiction over the subject, but we can send a message and maybe it will have an impact. I'm in favor of immigration reform."
Officials in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex reported less truck traffic in the morning hours in their container terminals and on local highways. But the impacts were far less than suggested by some independent drivers who stayed home on Tuesday, officials said.
"It was significantly quieter early in the morning, with some terminals saying they were half as busy as usual," said Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, which has seven container terminals. "But by 2 p.m. it was looking closer to normal."
"A year ago, there were very few trucks out here until late in the afternoon," he added.
The adjacent Port of Los Angeles was less impacted, with five of its seven terminals operating at normal capacity. Hardest hit were the APL terminal, which was operating at 40% of normal, and Yang Ming, which was operating at 50% of normal, according to Theresa Adams Lopez, a spokeswoman for the port.
Liliya China Bistro on 2nd and Main St. found out about the march yesterday (Monday) and were at full lunch staffing today, said Eddie Kim, manager of the restaurant, which is one block away from City Hall. They were not open last year.
Usually their peak hours for lunch are 11-1:30 p.m., and the restaurant, which can hold around 70 people on its two levels, is packed with customers and has a line. They usually get about 150 customers throughout the lunch hour, sometimes more. Today they had maybe a couple dozen customers, Kim said. He estimates the restaurant lost about $1,200 today.
Next year if there is the same march, he said the restaurant will "probably cut down staffing to half" of the six people they normally have working during the lunch hour.
Usually when a march blazes past Samantha Diaz’s downtown Los Angeles bridal shop on Broadway, she has sold water or flags like a true entrepreneur. But not this time.
This year, Diaz, a 37-year-old immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, who’s fed up with seeing marches that have little or no effect on politicians, closed her store and instead circulated a petition asking for amnesty for all immigrants currently in the United States.
"I just got tired of marches and marches and more marches and not seeing any result, and I wanted to do something for my people," said Diaz, who as a former illegal immigrant benefited from the last amnesty granted in 1991.
Diaz was swarmed by people wanting to sign one of the roughly 5,000 copies of the petition she was passing out. She said she intended to send it to the president, but the petitions were addressed to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Russell Jauregui, 51,a community organizer, was wearing a flourescent colored baseball cap, carrying wrinkled poster paper under one arm and shouting at marchers not to block the sidewalk. Marchers probably take up less than 100 yds on Vermont. The Union 76 gas station on nw corner of Vermont and 3rd is the main gathering spot. Jauregui said this would be the big church, labor, and student rally. He indicated that this year, news of the march was spread mostly by word of mouth, that they didnt get much media this year. Jauregui seemed unfazed by the small crowd, insisting it would grow and appearing upbeat--as if things were going exactly as planned.