Police say as many as 100,000 people may attend Saturday's immigration rights rally in downtown Los Angeles. The protest is aimed at Arizona’s new law that requires local police in that state to arrest undocumented immigrants.
The protest is one of many planned across the country. The measure’s stirred anger and fear, and a political backlash in Los Angeles.
For Erica Jimenez, Arizona’s law is personal.
“We have some other family members living in Arizona, so now they’re worried," Jimenez said as she stood outside Los Angeles City Hall, where vendors are selling an array of ethnic food.
Her uncle lives in Phoenix. He is undocumented. His U.S.-born children are not.
"They’re trying to move out as fast as they can," she said. "Most of them are going back to Mexico."
Jimenez, 19, came from Mexico legally with her parents a decade ago. She's a business student at Cal State L.A. She says immigrants come to the U.S. to work and should be free from laws like the one passed in Arizona.
Judy Forster of West L.A. reflects on people who entered the country illegally in search of work.
“My son was a teenager and he couldn’t get low-paying jobs, which is all he was qualified for. But there were illegal immigrants that had his job," she said.
Forster, who is a software developer, supports the Arizona law.
“When my grandparents came, there weren’t such restrictions," she acknowledged. "Ya know, you came over and if you were healthy, you were here."
But Forster says the laws have changed, and people should respect them.
As the debate rages over Arizona's new law, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa dived in Thursday.
“I add my voice in strongly opposing this unpatriotic and un-American law," he said.
Surrounded by immigrant rights activists, the mayor said immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job, and he echoed warnings that Arizona’s law would lead to racial profiling. Villaraigosa supports legislation that provides a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.
The mayor called on people to participate in an immigrant rights march tomorrow, and he endorsed a proposal by several City Council members for an economic boycott of Arizona.
“Our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars, or the withholding of our dollars, to send a clear message.”
L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes helped author the proposal.
“We have a very strong influence in how we look at the budgets of the airport, the harbor, Department of Water and Power to analyze and drill down exactly how our tax dollars are being spent and used with Arizona," Reyes said.
He said City Controller Wendy Greuel has identified $7.2 million that would be affected by the boycott. He did not specify where the money is spent.
For City Councilman Jose Huizar, the Arizona law is a personal affront.
“Simply put, if you look like me, you should be concerned about traveling to Arizona," Huizar said.
Outside City Hall, Erica Jimenez said she too would think twice about visiting the state whose local police plan to start arresting undocumented immigrants this summer.
Jimenez said the law is the talk of her dinner table and neighborhood. People are worried, she said, that California might consider adopting a similar law.
Jimenez said she plans on being among the tens of thousands protesting Arizona's law in downtown Los Angeles Saturday.