Nam Y. Huh  /  AP
A crowd with flags from various countries gathers for an immigration-rights rally on Monday in Chicago. The demonstration is part of a nationwide action that is meant to show both support for immigration reform and opposition to legislation that would criminalize an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. 

NBC correspondents report from across the country on the pro-immigrant protests.

May 1, 2006 | New York | 5:45 p.m. ET

Thousands of people gathered at Union Square in New York City showing support for immigrant workers. While the park itself was full of what appeared to be a predominantly Latino crowd, the surrounding streets were jammed as well. There appeared to be small groups, gathering an audience, playing drums and chanting for the right for workers to stay here. Immigrant supporters here have been drawn to the television cameras, chanting and raising flags and posters at the sight of every television crew!

There are many American and other flags waving as the chanting rises in different sections of the park. Most here have come to urge justice for immigrants in America. People are out pushing other causes as well, such as ending the war in Iraq. “Stop the genocide against immigrants” and “Full rights for all immigrants” are two of the many signs in the sea of protesters. From here the group moves to Foley Square, just across the street from the immigration office in Manhattan.

— Shauna Alami, NBC News producer

May 1, 2006 | New York | 4:30 p.m. ET

Covering the immigration rallies in Chinatown in lower Manhattan today, I was surprised to learn that the human chain event was organized by local community leaders at nearly a dozen locations throughout New York’s five boroughs, instead of by one central person in command.

So at 12:16 p.m. ET as the human chain unfolded, it appeared to be more of march through several blocks in Chinatown, rather than the sort of “human chain of solidarity” that had been promised.

I’m now waiting for another rally at Union Square, in lower Manhattan, to get underway. Due to Union Square’s more central location, its function as a subway hub, and its close proximity to New York University, there are a lot more people here. This demonstration is much more organized and colorful than the earlier one.

As always in New York City, the police are here in force. But, the event has been largely peaceful so far, the protestors simply want the right to be here in the United States of America. They want what many of us take for granted - the right to live, work and die in peace.

— Shauna Alami, NBC News producer

May 1, 2006 | New York | 3:30 p.m. ET

In New York City's Chinatown, a small crowd of immigrant supporters turned out chanting, "We are Americans" while waving small American flags.

Organizers say they wanted a demonstration in Chinatown to show the strength of this growing immigrant community.  

Jimmy Cheng, a tall Asian man who appears to be in his early 40s, came to this country as a child. He became a citizen 20 years ago. Cheng is now vice president of the United Fujianese American Association. He's an organizer now for immigrant rights in part, he says, to honor his father, who came here as an undocumented worker.

"The Asian population is growing in New York City," said Cheng.

Indeed, in a city where 36 percent of the population is foreign born, 24 percent of the immigrants are Asian, according to NYC authorities.  

When asked if demonstrating today could hurt the case of immigrants in the future, Cheng quickly answered, "We are not hurting the cause."

In Chinatown immigrants work hard and yet get paid less than others, said Cheng. He hopes demonstrations like the one today will help, at least, to get people thinking that Asians also came to this country searching for a better life and should not be branded as criminals because of it.

— Rehema Ellis, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Chicago | 3:20 p.m. ET

Just moments ago the last marchers left Union Park on Chicago's West Side. And following right behind them? Dozens of street cleaners. This is Chicago, after all, the city that works.

Mayor Richard M. Daley — like many in this heavily Democratic city — has been a strong supporter of immigrant rights throughout the recent debate.

In fact, it is against the law for any city worker to report an undocumented immigrant. But clean streets are also important to this mayor. I'm sure portions of Randolph are already as good as new.

— Mark Hudspeth, NBC News producer

May 1, 2006 | Los Angeles| 3:05 p.m. ET

NBC's Jennifer London
Thousands of marchers turned the corner onto Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall, carrying American flags and dressed in white shirts. "We can make it happen," the crowd shouted. "We can do it."

From a stage erected just moments before the marchers arrived, a set of speakers blared Neil Diamond's "Coming To America."

Sweaty faces in the crowd sang along and waved their flags and signs in beat with the music. "I come from Mexico," one woman said to me, "but live in America, and I want to be an American."

—Jennifer London, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | San Diego| 2:35 p.m. ET

NBC News
NBC's Peter Alexander
The first of six rallies and protests scheduled for the San Diego area begins in less than an hour now.

While set-up is underway at Larsen Park in San Ysidro, just a short walk from the U.S.-Mexican border, the silence at the border may be making the loudest statement.

Producer Jill Underwood and I just visited with two U.S. Border Patrol officers on a hillside overlooking the crossing, considered the world's busiest port of entry. As many as 50,000 cars enter the U.S. here on an average day, with wait times almost always exceeding an hour. But, right now, the crossing is nearly clear, with very limited delays.

It appears many Mexicans, with work permits allowing them to commute to the U.S.  each day, have chosen to stay home.

— Peter Alexander, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Los Angeles | 2:25 p.m. ET

NBC's Jennifer London
A small crowd has already started gathering outside the Los Angeles City Hall. A sea of American flags wave as the sun breaks through the layer of haze.

A man and woman, dressed as a bride and groom, have wrapped themselves in the stars and stripes, a sign around the man's neck reads: "America will you marry me?"

—Jennifer London, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Denver | 1:45 p.m. ET

There are between 3,000 to 5,000 people marching here from a city park about a mile from the center of downtown toward the state capitol here, where there are already around 1,300 people.

A band has started to play and there is a great deal of excitement in the air. It is a sparkling day in Denver — with temperatures in the low 60s and bright sunshine. Cars driving by are honking their horns in support of the rally.

The crowd includes a lot of young people. A lot of kids came out of school today, even though the Denver public school system, and the surrounding county systems, are up and running.

There are a fair number of Mexican flags being shown, but also a lot of American flags. March and rally organizers here urged people to show the U.S. flag, as opposed to the Mexican flag because in the past that has been somewhat divisive at some of these gatherings.

We anticipate the arrival of the marchers here at the state capitol in about an hour and the organizers had hoped that there would be as many as 50,000 people here today. So far, it will require a lot more people to show up to reach that number, but it could still easily happen.

Protests rallies and marches back in March brought out a crowd estimated at 50,000, so organizers are hoping to match that number, or perhaps even exceed it today.

It is also worth noting that a number of businesses in the area opted not to open today — some out of the acknowledgement that so many of their employees were not going to be at work, and others hoping to help bolster attendance at the rally.

— Jack Chesnutt, NBC News producer

May 1, 2006 | Dallas | 12:45 p.m. ET

NBC's Charles Hadlock

Here in Texas, where Hispanics make up a third of the population, this “Day without Immigrants” is having an impact.

A lot of Hispanics are simply staying home and that is having a direct effect on business and construction in Dallas.

While white-collar workers fill the downtown office buildings, work on a high-rise condominium project a few blocks away has come to a halt because a majority of  Hispanic workers didn’t show up to run the cranes and bulldozers. This scene is being repeated all across north Texas.

A lot of Hispanic-owned businesses — restaurants and grocery stores — are closed so employees and customers can take part in the protest.

At Malone Food Stores, which operates nine grocery stores in Hispanic neighborhoods in Dallas, 450 employees are free to join the demonstrations.

Rick Gomez, the chain’s general manager, says the stores will lose about $300,000 by being closed today.

"It's an issue that's important to us, it's important to them,” said Gomez. “We're ready to do what we think we can to gain attention to the issue and show support for our customers." 

In Guymon, Okla., 4,0000 employees of the Seaboard Meat Packing plant have the day off.  Some of them are traveling to protests in parts of Oklahoma.

Still, some Hispanic workers are on the job today. Some simply don’t want to take part in a protest; others fear that if they take the day off today, they won’t have a job tomorrow.

— Charles Hadlock, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Los Angeles | 12:15 p.m. ET

NBC's Jennifer London

As the camera crews feverishly set up and jockey for position across from City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, a small group of labor representatives from Local 585 set up a few blue tents and two large banners — one calls for equality and justice for all.

Mario Brito, Assistant Director of Media Affairs for the Southern California Council of Laborers, directs the placement of the banners as he reaches for his cell phone, which won't stop ringing. "Tell him I'm at the May 1st boycott," he says as he answers the phone. He offers a slight smile, even as his eyes rolls and he flips closed his phone.

I ask the obvious question, "Why are you here today?"

Brito replies, "Today is a process of which we begin to awaken people with legal and civil action."

He says Local 585 represents roughly 1,200 construction workers, many of whom are here illegally.

"Immigration reform begins with legalization of 11 to 12 million undocumented workers in this country," Brito says. He offers another smile and again reached for his cell phone.

He stands back to make sure the tents are where he wants them.

In just a few hours hundreds of thousands people will march by and he wants everything to be prefect.

Jennifer London, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Miami| 11:45 a.m. ET

NBC's Michelle Kosinski

This has been one of those events that people doubted would become really big in Miami. In the past, protests that are huge in other parts of the country don’t grow to that size here. 

But, by 8:00 a.m. this morning, an hour before today’s event was set to begin, there were already hundreds of people coming to the park. That was a sign that people are extremely motivated this time and that people of all groups were coming. There were flags from Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic. You don’t always see all of these groups often united this way – that’s been impressive.

The American flag is also prominently displayed.

So even people that are carrying big Guatemalan flags also are carrying an American flag, or they have the American flag above the flag of their nationality.

To see the crowd swell to what is right now an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 people is well beyond what anyone was expecting.

Police are saying the same thing. They thought that they might see a few hundred or possibly a thousand people. But when they started seeing thousands of people coming they said it was a real surprise. It’s also a pleasant surprise because it’s such peaceful gathering.

People have gathered outside the Sacred Heart Church here, walking about a mile to City Hall, and then heading to the Orange Bowl — a landmark in Miami. Many people have brought their children and they are walking along explaining to them what’s going on.

Just from talking to some of the people here watching the crowds, some of the police here have gotten a little choked up. It’s an emotional thing. Whether you agree with what the immigrants are hoping for, or you disagree with it. It’s an impressive sight. It becomes emotional to see how passionate people are about this country and to see how passionate they are about their freedom.

It’s yet to be seen how big the demonstration gets, but for the moment, it is one of the largest in Miami in the last five years.

Michelle Kosinski, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Chicago| 11:40 a.m. ET

NBC's Kevin Tibbles

From the heart of Chicago, a city that has always been a magnet for immigrants, they have come from all directions to historic Union Square. Today they wave flags and cheer. Not just Mexican flags, but the colors of Poland, Ireland and several other nations are also flapping in the wind.

However, the predominant flag is the Stars and Stripes as thousands gather demanding immigration reform for an essentially grassroots movement that has grown, in large part, by word of mouth.

Organizer Gabriel Gonzalez hurried through the growing crowd to speak to us on MSNBC cable. All the while trying to find out via cellphone what's happened to the stage! Indeed, this may be a case of....even if you don't build it....people come.

But, no stage, and the threat of rain, has not hampered this march so far as people, who are not at work or school, are urged from a voice by a loudspeaker mounted on the roof of a car to walk together in unison. In fact, this is expected to be one of the largest rallies the "City of Big Shoulders" has ever seen.

And slowly, through the crowd creeps a huge semi trailer — a mobile stage. It will soon be set up and ready to go for the guest speakers. But for this enthusiastic crowd the luxury of a platform is something they were getting by without quite nicely.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News correspondent

May 1, 2006 | Dallas| 11:40 a.m. ET

NBC News
NBC's Bethany Thomas

Dallas is in the middle of a building boom in the downtown area. Cranes moving and guys walking around with hard hats are part of the way of life these days in Dallas. 

On my way into our NBC News bureau in downtown Dallas this morning, I stopped by the first construction sight I saw. Two men were standing by their truck looking a little unhappy and too idle for a sunny Monday morning. They proceeded to tell me, "There's no one here today." 

Most of their co-workers have taken the day off and without them, the two men had nothing better to do than hang out by the truck and wait for more labor.

Back in the bureau now, I have a view of downtown out my office window.  On a normal day, I would see four cranes maneuvering around.  Today, they are all standing still.

— Bethany Thomas, NBC News producer


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