More than a million illegal immigrants and their supporters poured into streets across the nation, waving American flags to show their commitment to their adopted homeland, and walking out of work and school to pressure Congress for reforms.
According to the Associated Press, police departments and officials in more than two dozen U.S. cities gave a total crowd estimate at about 1.1 million marchers.
The marchers sang, chanted, prayed, and danced in the streets wearing American flags as capes and bandanas. Many also waved signs reading We are America and Today we march, tomorrow we vote.
The massive May 1 rallies and boycott were part of a larger effort by immigration advocates to pressure Congress into passing comprehensive reforms that would not criminalize immigrants and would provide a path for legal residency.
The response from the Christian community has ranged from the full fledged support and activism by many Catholic leaders to the outright condemnation by some conservative Christians.
At a panel discussion on immigration at the Washington-based Family Research Council on illegal immigration, politicians and religious leaders offered more moderate views on how to strike a balance between law enforcement and compassion.
As citizens of the United States, we have an obligation to support the government and its laws (Rom. 13:7). We also have a right to expect the government to fulfill its divinely ordained mandate to punish those who break the laws and reward those who do not (Rom. 13:1-7), explained Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. As Christians, we also have a divine mandate to act compassionately toward those in need. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matt. 22:39; 7:12).
Panelists honed-in on how illegal immigration and policies would impact families.
The deportation of 12 million individuals is not a practical manner, said the Rev. Samuel Rodriquez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. From a Judeo Christian perspective, our concern is the family, and thats what drives us.
The May 1 rallies meanwhile were focused more on the economic impact immigrants have on the U.S., with many thousands of illegal residents refusing to work or shop.
According to the Associated Press, the rallies shut down 29 branches of Chipotle Mexican Grill a Denver-based fast-casual food chain. Goya Foods, known as the nations largest Hispanic-owned food chain, suspended delivery except in Florida in what the company called a gesture of solidarity. Tyson Foods Inc, the worlds largest meat producer, also shut down about a dozen of its 100 plants.
Meanwhile in the Los Angeles School District, which is about 73 percent Hispanic, about 72,000 middle and high school students were absent about one in every four.