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March Calls for General Amnesty

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Times Staff Writers

More than 1,000 marchers took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to call for a general amnesty for illegal immigrants and highlight the troubles of women facing deportation.

Organizers put the crowd at 5,000, while police estimated 1,500.

“We’re telling Congress we’re still here, waiting for a positive answer,” said Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, a popular Spanish-language radio deejay, who helped turn out 500,000 people for a demonstration in March against federal legislation cracking down on illegal immigration.

Saturday’s demonstration focused largely on undocumented immigrant women threatened with deportation.

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It spotlighted the case of a cleaning woman from Mexico who has taken refuge in a Chicago storefront church to avoid being deported.

Elvira Arellano, 31, was arrested in 2002 for using a fake Social Security number to obtain a job at O’Hare International Airport and has been fighting since then for permission to stay in the country with her 7-year-old U.S.-born son.

“We’re here for Elvira,” said truck driver Trini Quezada, 48, who related that he has been in the country illegally for 32 years.

Arellano’s situation hit close to home for many of the marchers, including Patricia Figueroa, a Coachella Valley teacher who said she has seen schoolchildren abandoned when their mothers are deported.

Some children have wound up with relatives or neighbors, and others have been placed in foster care, she said.

Sergio Hernandez, an undocumented construction worker from Mexico, and his U.S.-born teenage daughter, Daleth, said they feared this could happen to them.

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“If they catch my mom and dad, we’ll have to be sent to a foster home,” said Daleth, 17, referring to her three siblings.

But while many of the marchers were concerned about the prospects of being separated from their families, Salvador Hernandez was dealing with the reality.

Hernandez, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico, has been separated for more than two years from his Argentine-born wife, who overstayed her visitor’s visa and was sent to Argentina to apply for legal entry to the U.S.

Salvador Hernandez said she remains there with their 3-year-old daughter because her paperwork has disappeared in the U.S. government bureaucracy.

He carried a sign that said, “Help Me Reunify My Family.”

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ron.lin@latimes.com

ted.rohrlich@latimes.com

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