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Monday, April 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Immigration march, rally today

Seattle Times staff reporter

Shortly after noon today, Graham Black will close down his construction company and trade his work boots for walking shoes.

The owner of gProjects in Seattle will join thousands of immigrant supporters marching from St. Mary's Church in the Central Area to a rally at the Jackson Federal Building in downtown.

The Seattle event is part of a National Day of Action, in which marchers from more than 70 cities nationwide are calling on Congress to pass immigration reform they say would provide a clear path to citizenship, help unite families and ensure workplace and civil-rights protections.

"We are working on homes that customers are slated to move into in four and 11 days," Black said, adding that most of his 12 workers are immigrants. "But I felt it was important for me and for my workers to have our voices heard."

"At one point or another, we're all immigrants," he said.

The ralliers plan to leave St. Mary's, a Roman Catholic church on 20th Avenue South, at 3:30 p.m. and march west on South Jackson and South King streets and then north on Fourth Avenue.

The Seattle Police Department, anticipating between 4,000 and 5,000 people, will restrict traffic in the area as necessary, spokesman Sean Whitcomb said. The department advises drivers to seek alternative routes.

The march and rally are sponsored by a host of Washington agencies — including labor and immigrant-advocacy groups and church and human-rights organizations.

Immigration reform has become a rallying cry across the country. Bipartisan immigration legislation, under debate in the U.S. Senate, had appeared on its way to passage before stalling Friday — just as Congress prepared to leave on a two-week Easter break.

Immigrants and their advocates, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C., have been rallying in support of what they call comprehensive reform. Young people have joined in the action, with many high-school and middle-school students walking out of class to march and rally.

Groups opposed to illegal immigrants were threatening to protest outside the downtown offices of the Mexican Consul at noon today, although it was unclear who was organizing the protest and police officials said they had no knowledge of the event.

Today's National Day of Action also called for Latino workers nationally to walk off their jobs in solidarity, reminiscent of the 2004 Hollywood movie "A Day Without a Mexican." In the movie, California wakes up one morning to find its Latino population has disappeared.

Hilary Stern, executive director of Casa Latina, which operates a day-laborer center along Western Avenue, said there wasn't enough time to plan for a widespread worker walkout, so it will occur on a small scale, at least locally.

"We're closing down," she said, referring to both the day-laborer center on Western Avenue and the Casa Latina offices on Blanchard Street. "And of course our taco stand will be closed, too."

A more wide-scale walkout is planned May 1.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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