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Latino Groups Lobby for More Rights

As Virginia lawmakers continued to consider a swath of bills aimed at punishing illegal immigrants and their employers, Latino immigrants and advocates took to the state Capitol yesterday to press for laws that expand the rights of people living in the country illegally.

About 100 people, most of them from Northern Virginia, fanned out to lawmakers' offices, gathered in biting wind for a short rally and attended a lunch visited by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who told them that he is committed to keeping Virginia a "welcoming place" for all.

The second annual Latino Lobby Day, coordinated by a coalition of Virginia Latino rights groups, drew twice as many people this year, said organizers, adding that the turnout reflected a heightened sense of urgency this session. Nearly 50 immigrant-related bills have been proposed in the General Assembly this year, most of which seek to crack down on illegal immigration.

"We're here to express our outrage at a very mean-spirited set of bills that have been introduced in the legislature of Virginia," Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada (D) said at a news conference. Many of the proposals, he said, "are based on myth and hate."

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