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Immigrants Stage Massive Protest in Chicago

Tens of thousands of immigrants have rallied in the midwestern U.S. city of Chicago to protest proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws.

The demonstrators waved flags and carried signs Friday as they massed at a plaza near the federal courthouse in the downtown area. A similar protest took place Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The protesters were voicing their opposition to legislation that would define millions of undocumented people as felons and punish anyone who helps them. That includes doctors and nurses who treat undocumented persons as well as social workers and clergy who minister to them.

Known as the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, the measure has already passed the House of Representatives and is under consideration in the Senate. President Bush has said he will sign the measure if passed by the Senate.

Supporters say the bill provides more resources for border security, cracks down on human smuggling operations in border areas and imposes criminal penalties for those engaged in immigration fraud.

Critics say the measure would endanger the human rights and civil liberties of immigrants and make the jobs of social workers perilous. Roman Catholic leaders say they will defy the law if it goes into effect.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.