E PLURIBUS UNUM. Downtown Chicago was the site of a large rally for immigrant rights today.

Alex Garcia and about 10 co-workers from a Joliet commercial sign company rode a Metra train to Chicago's Union Station and then walked about 12 blocks to Union Park, then re-traced their steps as they headed back to the Loop.

Garcia, whose company installs signs for McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area, said, "Most people don't realize how much work we do, but it's part of their daily lives. We are putting up all the buildings and cooking all the food. Today, they'll understand."

Anticipating the big turnout, critics of illegal immigration held a preemptive news conference this morning in Grant Park. They predicted the rally would backfire on its organizers, stoking the anger of other Chicagoans that illegal immigrants were arrogant enough to demand increased rights.

I do have that paper on parallel immigration tracks to get in shape, and sehr schnell, for an upcoming conference in Chicago. The policy implications have some relevance.

Today's events come at a critical time in the immigration debate. Congress is weighing competing proposals over how to treat the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Rally organizers said they oppose H.R. 4437, a bill approved in the U.S. House of Representatives that would drastically strengthen immigration enforcement, including the construction of a fence along the Mexican border.

Instead, they back a competing bill that would provide legal status for most undocumented immigrants and make it easier for legal immigrants to bring in relatives. That legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), also would expand temporary work visas.

The more difficult one makes legal entry, the more determined the illegal residents will be to obtain regular status.

A subplot of the day's events, organizers said, was the Chicago economy's reliance on immigrant labor. Organizers encouraged participants to leave work, with some calling for a "general strike" today to underscore the workload shouldered by immigrants, including those without legal status.

Around the area, business owners weighed whether to give the march their blessing or to resist the employee exodus. Several Mexican box boys in a Montclare grocery store said they saw the march as a chance to affirm their dignity. But their boss Gus Labrakis, a Greek immigrant, was annoyed about how their participation might impact his business.

"I don't think this is a good idea," Labrakis said. "They're inviting even more hate against them. The real problem is at the border. If they keep coming by the millions, where will this lead?"

To an even more productive USA compared to the rest of the world? I wonder if there are enough parameters now to calibrate a numerical analysis. That "subplot" is precisely the "apprenticeship" argument upon which much of my current research rests.

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