Orlando Ariza's 19-year-old daughter was thinking of going to college in Arizona next year, he said Saturday.
But concerned about that state's controversial new law requiring police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain or arrest, his daughter changed her mind.
"She's not going," said Ariza, 48, of Long Beach, as he joined hundreds of other demonstrators in Hempstead protesting the Arizona law. "She's afraid. She says, 'What if I'm driving and something happens? What if I lose my license?' "
The Hempstead rally was one of at least three on Long Island and hundreds across the country aimed at legislation that critics say discriminates against Latinos and immigrants. About 6,500 people rallied in Manhattan, and 50,000 came out for a Los Angeles gathering with singer Gloria Estefan, The Associated Press reported.
In Hempstead, car horns honked in support as a multiethnic crowd, carrying American flags and signs with messages such as "People Are Not Aliens" and "No Mas Deportaciones," marched through the village with a police escort.
Chants mixed with the sound of trumpets, drums and guitars. Some signs called for boycotts of Arizona.
"Conscience brought me here," said Barbara Androu, of Valley Stream. "Look at the faces here . . . They have the same hopes and aspirations as our families did, but they don't have the legal system that our parents did."
Carlos Canales, 55, of Uniondale, an organizer with the Workplace Project, a rally sponsor, said he is concerned other states will follow Arizona.
"People say, 'Why don't you go back to your country and fight for a government like ours?' " said Canales, who fled a civil war in El Salvador in 1986 to come to the United States. "We do that, and they say we are terrorists."
"The United States is a great country," Canales said. "Otherwise we wouldn't be here."
About 25 people rallied on the East Hampton Village Green, said Michael O'Neill, 67, a Sag Harbor baker. "People are really angry," he said. "Everybody is talking about this Arizona law as being emblematic of what's going on. It's really scary."
Many in Hempstead showed support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would ease citizenship for immigrants, toughen border control and require national ID cards.
Ariza, vice president for buildings and grounds for the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside, said the Arizona law is "against humanity."
The native of Colombia said he fears his children, including a 10-year-old daughter, may become victims of discrimination despite being U.S. citizens.
"I worry for my children, who were born in this country and look Spanish," he said.