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May 1, 2010 at 6:11 PM
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Protesters demand U.S. immigration reform

LOS ANGELES, May 1 (UPI) -- Protesters took to the streets across America Saturday to rally against Arizona's strict new immigration law and demand federal immigration reform.

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."

Obama to tour oil spill damage

NEW ORLEANS, May 1 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama will visit the Gulf Coast to tour areas damaged by the massive oil spill, the White House said Saturday.

Obama was preparing to travel with a small group Sunday morning -- to minimize disruption of cleanup efforts -- as Gulf Coast residents anxiously awaited the arrival of the huge oil slick.

About 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled since an April 20 explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven oil rig workers remain missing and are presumed dead.

Administration officials said Saturday the National Response Team -- comprising 16 federal departments -- has been activated to oversee the response to the spill.

BP faces increasing criticism from federal officials and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for its response and a class-action lawsuit claims negligence by BP and the owners of the oil rig.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of residents affected by the spill, names BP, Transocean Ltd., Cameron International Corp. and Halliburton Energy Services, CNN reported.

It accuses them of violating the federal Oil Pollution Act and being negligent by failing to properly operate, inspect and maintain the Deepwater Horizon rig, resulting in the explosion.

The suit, which seeks at least $5 million damages, said the "defendants inadequately responded to the explosion and resulting oil leak, causing severe damage to the fragile ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico."

Louisiana health and wildlife officials shut down all commercial and recreational fishing east of the mouth of the Mississippi River to protect consumers from tainted seafood, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune said.

The move jeopardizes the livelihoods of thousands who work in the fishing industry and others, the newspaper reported.

"This changes everything as we know it," said Glenn Sanchez of Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale. "I don't have a clue how I'll make a living."

Obama calls for more civility in politics

ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 1 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama told University of Michigan graduates Saturday "slash-and-burn politics" impedes progress and called for civility in political debate.

"We cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down," Obama told about 92,000 people during a commencement address at Michigan Stadium. "You can question someone's views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism."

Calling for "a basic level of civility in our public debate," Obama said: "These arguments we're having over government and healthcare and war and taxes are serious arguments. They should arouse people's passions, and it's important for everyone to join in the debate, with all the rigor that a free people require."

But he said serious debate is too often overshadowed in the political climate of sharp partisan divides and overheated rhetoric captured in sound bites.

"We've got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names, pundits and talking heads shout at each other," Obama said.

"As I've found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash-and-burn politics isn't easy," Obama said. "And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: Treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect."

The president took aim at those who have been "throwing around phrases like 'socialists' and 'Soviet-style takeover' and 'fascist' and 'right-wing nut,'" saying such name-calling "may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes."

He urged the 8,000 members of Michigan's class of 2010 to consider public life, to realize citizenship in a democracy requires staying well-informed, and to stay connected with and hold accountable elected officials.

"The question for your generation is this: How will you keep our democracy going?'" Obama said. "At a moment when our challenges seem so big and our politics seem so small, how will you keep our democracy alive and well in this century?"

Defending the role of government in healthcare, economic stimulus and financial reform, Obama said: "American democracy has thrived because we have recognized the need for a government that, while limited, can still help us adapt to a changing world. But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. … For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us."

Hoekstra: End bailouts, wasteful spending

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said Saturday Republicans are "standing with the American people" by fighting to end bailouts and wasteful spending.

Hours before President Barack Obama spoke at Hoekstra's alma mater, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the congressman urged Obama to tour the state to get a close-up look at the toll of the economic downturn.

In the weekly Republican radio and Internet address, Hoekstra, who is running for Michigan governor, laid the blame for high unemployment and the struggling economy squarely on Obama and Democratic lawmakers.

"I join with Michiganders across the state in welcoming President Obama to our home," Hoekstra said. "We also welcome the opportunity to show the president first-hand the painful plight of the people of Michigan. Like countless Americans, they face fewer jobs and fewer opportunities today than when he took office."

Hoekstra noted persistently high unemployment nationwide and in Michigan, where it stands at 14 percent.

"The Democrats have run Congress since 2007, and yet when the residents of Michigan and across America ask themselves are they better off now than they were four years ago, the answer is inevitably 'no.'

He criticized "sprawling government expansion" and Democrats' "partisan, big-government, tax-borrow-and-spend agenda," exemplified, he said, by the federal stimulus, healthcare reform and proposed financial reform. Democrats' financial reform legislation would lead to more government bailouts, he said.

"Republicans are standing with the American people and the people of Michigan by fighting for an end to permanent bailouts, ending wasteful Washington spending and proposing a plan that would address the root causes of the financial crisis," Hoekstra said. "We are standing for real solutions."

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