CHICAGO (AP) -- With drums banging and trumpets blowing, hundreds of people marched through downtown Chicago Friday demanding passage of an immigration law that provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The marchers gathered at Union Park, west of Chicago's Loop, before setting off for Federal Plaza, about two miles away, for a rally held in the rain.
Maria D'Amezcua of the Latino division of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and an organizer of the march, said the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants include people from many countries who should be allowed a chance at U.S. citizenship.
"We were able to speak not just for Mexicans, but for all the people of the world - Chinese, Palestinian - who are considered illegal who want citizenship in this country," she said.
Many of the activists expressed confidence that with President Barack Obama in the White House and a Democratic-controlled Congress, a favorable immigration reform law will eventually pass. But they said raids to round up illegal immigrants that became common during the Bush administration have continued under Obama.
About 15,000 people were expected, but far fewer turned out. D'Amezcua said many could not afford to take the day off from work and suggested that had the rally taken place over the weekend, more would have attended.
But Susana Avita was among those who said people stayed home out of concerns about swine flu. She said she set her fears aside because immigration reform is too important.
"I'm afraid, but I have to go on," Avita said. "I pray that nothing happens to me (but) I don't want fear to stop me."
Waukegan resident Armando Pena said he was disappointed more people didn't turn out and also blamed the low numbers on a combination of the flu and tough economic times.
"The economy is so bad they don't want to lose their jobs," said Pena, who organized a contingent of about 50 people.
Like in past marches, sprinkled among the heavily Hispanic crowd were Filipino, Asian and African immigrants.
Young Sun Song, a community organizer with Chicago's Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, said she has been working since 1995 to promote immigration reform.
"It's not a Latino issue," she said. "We have a shared issue and a shared responsibility to come out to support immigration reform."
Song is a citizen but has a sister who entered the U.S. as the spouse of a student but failed to renew her visa. Song said her sister, who owns a dry cleaning business, has two sons who were born in the U.S.
"She is no threat to national security, she's patriotic, a hard worker and pays taxes," Song said. "We need a rational discussion of immigration reform."