SEATTLE – Just days after Arizona’s new strict law on illegal immigrants was enacted, thousands of people marched across Washington state Saturday, calling on Congress and President Barack Obama to reform the nation’s immigration system.
In Seattle, a crowd of thousands streamed down city streets, chanting in Spanish and English, hoisting signs protesting Arizona’s new law and calling for immigration reform.
In Yakima, around 2,000 people marched, with a smaller counter-demonstration of about 125. Last year, about 600 people marched in Yakima.
At least nine rallies, marches and vigils were planned across the state in support of immigration reform Saturday.
There were no violent incidents or arrests at Seattle’s march, police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. There were few counter-demonstrators.
Seattle’s demonstration had been in the planning stages for weeks to mark May Day, the annual international worker’s day. But the Arizona law gave it new meaning.
The law prompted Carlos Alberto Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who entered the country through Arizona and has been in the U.S. for four years, to join the march, after skipping previous marches held in Seattle.
“I’m here so they can see that we’re supporting (reform), so that they give us documents, so that we be here without fear of being caught,” he said.