Annual US rallies given life by immigration reform debate

Demonstrators on Wednesday were demanding that US immigration laws receive an overhaul even as Congress continues to contemplate sweeping reforms proposed by new legislation that would allow around 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States to finally be able to come out of the shadows.

Thousands of people joined in the May Day rallies across dozens of cities all over the country.  In Salem in Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber received cheers from almost 2,000 people on the steps of the State capitol as he signed into law a bill that means immigrants who live in Oregon but do not have proof of legal status can still get hold of driving licenses.

Meanwhile in Vermont, around 1,000 people got together on the lawn of the Montpelier Statehouse, with thousands of demonstrators in New York marching in downtown Manhattan banging on drums and waving banners in a scene reminiscent of the heyday of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The crowds were relatively small in comparison to the demonstrations held in 2006 and 2007 in the midst of the last serious effort to change the US immigration system in any major way.

Last time around advocates for change believed they were outmaneuvered by their opponents who at the behest of conservative radio talk show hosts flooded congressional offices with faxes and phone calls decrying any changes.  Now immigration advocacy groups are using social media and other forms of technology to get their message across to lawmakers.