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Dems observe May Day as immigrant day of action

Dems observe May Day as immigrant day of action
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Immigrant activists took advantage of traditional May Day marches across the country Monday to rally support against President Trump's immigration policies.

Thousands attended the marches, taking the opportunity to promote a spate of social issues such as LGBT, women's and labor rights.

But immigration, a central issue in Trump's presidency so far, took top billing.

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At the Washington, D.C., demonstration outside the White House, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a longtime immigration activist, said the marches were a message to Trump.

"That we are present, that this is also our country, that this is our land, that your policy of hate, discrimination and prejudice is as old as America," Gutiérrez said in Spanish.

Gutiérrez compared current rhetoric against immigration to the discrimination endured by other immigrant groups in the past.

"They were wrong in the past and they are wrong today. Our immigrant community will fight the battle and triumph," he said.

March attendees agreed there was little hope the mobilizations would change the Trump administration's immigration tactics but said they were hoping to lay the groundwork for collaboration on immigration with congressional Republicans.

"I've been talking to a lot of colleagues from across the aisle — there are a lot of Republicans who do want to deal with immigration in a very different way than what the president is talking about," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) at the protest. 

The Washington march was primarily organized by Casa in Action, an immigrant and Latino advocacy group in Maryland and Virginia, and a regional affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Some businesses were forced to close because their workers joined the rallies, eliciting a few complaints from small-business owners.

And in some cities, the protest took on a local tone.

In Austin, protesters staged a sit-in in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) office demanding that he veto a controversial new immigration measure passed last week by the state legislature.

Nationwide, protests from Seattle to Miami centered on Trump's aggressive enforcement of immigration laws. 

Trump's enforcement measures have fired up activists and Democrats, who have converged on opposition to virtually all of Trump's immigration actions.

Democratic members of Congress held an event in support of immigrants at the Capitol shortly after the march.

The top four House Democrats — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), James Clyburn (S.C.) and Joe Crowley (N.Y.) — were all there.

Pelosi said Democrats handed Trump "a resounding defeat" on immigration in the omnibus bill unveiled Monday.

"It does not fund his immoral and unwise border wall, it does not create a deportation force and it does not defund sanctuary cities," she said.

Democrats took the opportunity to pan the Trump administration for what they see as excessive measures taken against immigrants, and to tout their own unity on the issue.

"It's also important for the leaders of our party, and leaders across the aisle as well, to stand up to the attack on immigrants by the administration. We've seen this administration sink to new levels of lowness," said Crowley.