LAS VEGAS (AP) — People waving American flags, honking hand-held horns and chanting "Si se puede" — Spanish for "Yes, we can" — flooded a major Las Vegas thoroughfare to rally for comprehensive immigration reform, joining similar demonstrations that took place in cities around the country.
Thousands of people showed up Wednesday evening for the March for Citizenship rally, which kicked off with a speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before heading toward the casino-lined tourist corridor.
"We're going to get 11 million people right with the country, because they're right for the country," Reid said. "Comprehensive immigration reform. We're going to get it done."
The demonstration was one of dozens in cities across the country, including Reno, that took place on May Day, which typically is a holiday for labor groups but has taken on an immigration flavor in the past few years. It comes as Congress considers sweeping revisions to the U.S. immigration system.
Police reported no citations or arrests during the colorful rally, which included labor union members in bright orange and green T-shirts and dancers dressed in traditional Mexican costumes. Mothers pushed strollers and carried signs saying "keep families together" and "stop the raids." Joyful trumpets and a bouncy bass line wafted from a mariachi poised at the steps of the federal courthouse.
Vicenta Montoya, the vice chair of the Latino Democratic Caucus, said she's attended many rallies in the past. This one was different.
"For the first time, I actually have real hope there's going to be immigration reform," Montoya said. "I knew it would happen, but I didn't know when. I'm sorry it took so long."
Traffic was diverted while police on horseback escorted the marchers down a 1.4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard downtown. Some of the group continued on through the more touristy Strip.
The march was bookended by speeches from elected officials and Nevadans set to benefit from reform, including a tearful one from 13-year-old Talia Gonzalez, who said she's spent the past three years away from her father because he's unable to return to the U.S. Nevada AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also spoke.
As the sun set, Democratic congressional representatives Steven Horsford and Dina Titus rallied the crowd gathered at the parade's end in the parking lot of a labor union hall.
Attendees were encouraged to fill out petition cards urging their elected officials to pass reforms.
"I think the American public has made it clear they want it," Horsford said about the demonstrations. "But Washington tends to be behind where the public is."
Opposition to the rally in Las Vegas was limited; it included a man with a bullhorn telling demonstrators across the street that people needed to respect the nation's laws.
Some attendees came to the rally straight from work wearing casino-issued uniforms. Maria Trujillo and Carmen Nunez, who work in the Caesars Palace housekeeping department, said they wanted to speak out to support families who are separated by their immigration status.
Marriages often disintegrate when one partner is deported, they said.
Other attendees were young immigrant parents who came to the rally with their children, who are American citizens and have never known their parents' home countries.
They included Gaspar Salinas, a 34-year-old day laborer who came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico in 2000. A father of a 9-year-old girl, Salinas said things have improved from a few years ago, when states including Arizona started implementing strict immigration laws.
"We were outcasts. We had a lot of fear," said Salinas. With an immigration reform proposal on the table, "we feel more comfortable," he said.