Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Los Angeles to protest pending federal legislation to crack down on illegal immigration.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department told VOA about 500,000 people marched in Saturday's rally. The demonstration was spurred by anger over legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally.
The bill has sparked sharp debate among lawmakers, with some U.S. senators calling for a guest worker program and some type of amnesty program for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.
President Bush has called for comprehensive immigration reform, including enactment of his proposed temporary worker program. That proposal would allow immigrants to enter the country legally for a limited period of time.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Mr. Bush said his immigration proposal would secure the nation's borders, improve enforcement of current immigration laws and allow police to focus efforts on fighting crime.
The president stressed his temporary worker program would not provide amnesty to those who are illegally in the country.
Immigration is looming as a key issue in this year's congressional elections, in which Republicans are seeking to hold on to their majorities in both houses of Congress.
The bill passed by the Republican-dominated House in December would also impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens as well as build a fence along one-third of the U.S-Mexican border.
Under that measure, churches and other social welfare groups would have to ask immigrants for legal documentation before giving them aid.
That provision has been denounced as punitive and unjust by Roman Catholic and other religious leaders. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who opposes the legislation, says he will tell priests to defy the measure if it becomes law.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.