Organizers predicted opposition to the Arizona law would boost participation in mass May Day rallies in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Milwaukee, Chicago and Washington, as well as smaller events in about 70 locations nationwide, The New York Times reported.
"We benefit from the work immigrants do, yet we don't give them any rights," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said in Spanish at a downtown protest where he spoke alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "Every time there is an economic downturn, we have a new attack on immigrants."
Many demonstrators called for federal immigration reform that would provide a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants.
In Washington, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., was arrested at a sit-in at the White House fence while sporting a T-shirt that read, "Arrest me, not my friends." He joined 40 other immigration reform advocates carrying a sign reading, "Obama, stop deporting our families." Several other protesters signs read, "Shame on Arizona."
Police in the nation's capital said 35 people were arrested on charges of violating regulations on White House demonstrations.
Critics say the Arizona law would result in racial profiling, give the state immigration enforcement responsibility the Constitution says should be left to the federal government alone and possibly violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The law makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to be in the United States and allows law enforcement officers to ask for immigration papers for those they stop, detain or arrest.
In Chicago, as protesters descended on Daley Plaza, Monica Jimenez of Berwyn, Ill., defended immigrants who cross the border illegally seeking work and economic opportunities. She told the Chicago Tribune she supports guest-worker programs that would allow undocumented workers to work legally in the United States.
"We want what any Americans want," she said. "We want our children to have access to good schools. We want them to have bright futures."