Immigrants and their supporters turned up the pressure on President Bush and Congress with a wave that swept through more than 120 cities, suburbs and towns coast to coast from April 7 to April 10, the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice.

An estimated 2 million marched, with 500,000 in Dallas, 500,000 in Washington, 125,000 in New York City, 300,000 in Phoenix, 100,000 in San Diego, and 50,000 in Houston leading the total.

The diversity of areas is also part of the picture. Boise, Idaho, 5,000; Madison, Wis., 10,000; St. Paul, Minn., 30,000; Indianapolis, 25,000; San Jose, Calif., 25,000; Salt Lake City, 20,000; Tucson, Ariz., 15,000; Oakland, Calif., 10,000; Seattle, 5,000; Philadelphia, 7,000; St. Louis, 5,000; Grand Junction, Colo., 3,500; Garden City, Kan., 3,000; Columbus, Ohio, 3,000; Hartford, Conn., 2,000. Another new feature of this movement is the demonstrations throughout the “Deep South,” the focus of this week’s clips.

ATLANTA: “We have been working quietly in this country, but when they called us criminals they woke us up,” said Juan Mallesteros, a textile worker, as he marched with over 50,000 to demand his rights. “I don’t think there’s been anything like this ever before in Atlanta,” said state Sen. Alan Zamarripa, keeping in step with the march. “These people want to be viewed with dignity. This is a human face of what has been characterized as a criminal element. The community is overcoming its fear to be here.”

JACKSON, Miss.: Poultry workers, 500 strong, rallied for immigration reform that would reunite families and improve working conditions. The workers sang “Vamos avencer” (“We shall overcome”). “Whether you came across in the Mayflower, in the belly of a slave ship, or came across the border last night, you are entitled to the same human rights,” state Rep. Jim Evans told the rally.

FORT MYERS, Fla.: With an estimated 850,000 undocumented workers living in the state, Florida has the third largest undocumented immigrant population in the country. Some 75,000 immigrant workers filled this city’s wide boulevards marching to demand their rights.

PLANT CITY, Fla.: Carlos Palacios is a forklift operator at Del Monte Fresh Products and April 10 he was in the line of march with hundreds of workers and students. His boss tried to coax him and the rest of the 100 workers at the plant back to work, offering them double-time pay. They kept walking. At City Hall, the Del Monte workers were in a sea of their fellow workers and 200 high school students who walked out of class.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.: The picket line around the federal courthouse was 1,000 strong, representing the diversity of South Florida: people from Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. William Montes, who is Puerto Rican, said, “Our borders should be open to all who want to work. No terrorist is coming here to work.”

HOMESTEAD, Fla.: “If there are no tomatoes, there is no salsa and there is no pizza. And there is no Papa John’s or Domino’s,” Diana Posada of Guatemala told a rally of 2,000 farm workers weary from a day of harvesting tomatoes, squash and snap peas.

MIAMI: Past demonstrations here drew only a few hundred immigrants and supporters, but on April 10, over 5,000 filled the “bowl” outside Government Center and marched to the Torch of Friendship. “There is a man in my church with two children,” said Leonne Jean, 53, a hotel worker. “They paid the lawyer $6,000 and he is still going to be sent back to Haiti — and his wife is big again. But if everybody stands up and speaks together, then we have a chance.”

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Some 5,000 took to the same streets that were the scene of civil rights confrontations with police in the 1960s. “We are immigrants, not delinquents” read many signs in the march. Leaning against one his El Toro towing trucks, David Lopez passed out water to marchers. He said he has 32 relatives in the U.S. military, including 11 who are undocumented immigrants, currently serving in Iraq. Willie Mae Cooper, a civil rights movement veteran, watched as the march passed her home, saying, “This is beautiful. Beautiful.”

SILER CITY, N.C.: Immigrant workers are making a pilgrimage across North Carolina. On April 10 thousands filled this small community of 7,000 bringing a message of dignity and equality. “We believe in the worth and the dignity of every person,” said Nolo Martinez of El Pueblo, sponsor of the pilgrimage. The cross state march began April 9 in Lenoir and ended in Raleigh. Workers also marched in Hickory, Smithfield and Winston-Salem.

FORT SMITH, Ark.: About 3,000 immigrants here stepped out of the shadows and took to the streets. One supporter, Hal Thompson, marched saying, “When my ancestors came here from Germany and England they were immigrants. They came to make a better life for their families. These people did the same thing. In Little Rock, 1,000 demonstrated. In the community of Springdale, students walked out of school.

National Clips are complied by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).

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