LOS ANGELES (AP) — Demonstrators demanded an overhaul of immigration laws Wednesday in an annual, nationwide ritual that carried a special sense of urgency as Congress considers sweeping legislation that would bring many of the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally out of the shadows.

Thousands joined May Day rallies from Concord, N.H., to Los Angeles, where scores of marchers gathered downtown. In Salem, Ore., Gov. John Kitzhaber was cheered by about 2,000 people on the Capitol steps as he signed a bill to allow people living in Oregon without proof of legal status to obtain drivers licenses.

In Vermont, more than 1,000 people assembled on the Montpelier Statehouse lawn. And in New York, paper rats on sticks bobbed along Sixth Avenue as about 200 protesters set off from Bryant Park, chanting: "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" The rats were intended to symbolize abused migrant workers.

The May Day crowds paled in comparison to the massive demonstrations of 2006 and 2007, during the last serious attempt to introduce major changes to the U.S. immigration system. Despite the large turnouts six years ago, many advocates of looser immigration laws felt they were outmaneuvered by opponents who flooded congressional offices with phone calls and faxes at the behest of conservative talk-radio hosts.

Now, immigrant advocacy groups are focusing heavily on calling and writing members of Congress, using social media and other technology to target specific lawmakers. Reform Immigration for America, a network of groups, claims more than 1.2 million subscribers, including recipients of text messages and Facebook followers.

Many of Wednesday's rallies featured speakers with a personal stake in the debate. Naykary Silva, a 26-year-old Mexican woman in the country illegally, joined about 200 people who marched in Denver's spring snow, hoping for legislation that would ensure medical care for her 3-year-old autistic son.

"If you want to do something, you do it no matter what," Silva said. "There's still more work to do."


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Business owners and leaders spoke out Wednesday in favor of a plan to put $25 million in state money into Wisconsin startups.

The bipartisan legislation from Republican Rep. Mike Kuglitsch of New Berlin would put the money into a fund that invests in agriculture, technology, energy and other industries. The fund also would get at least $50 million from private sources.

The initial $25 million was included in Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget. Under the proposal, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. would hire a fund manager to attract private investments and direct them to newer companies — mostly younger than 5 years old — that are trying to grow and that have good potential.

David Summers is the co-founder of KrunchThat!, a Madison-based startup that uses research technology to help college students with academic papers. He and two partners started the company last year before launching a website in March.

He said the company is looking for about $1.5 million to help offset marketing and legal service costs and eventually hire more developers.

"Penetrating the market takes a lot of upfront capital," Summers said. "I think the legislation is a terrific way to supplement the funding gap we have seen."

Other business owners and leaders joined Summers in applauding the plan, saying it will bring certainty to state's entrepreneurial environment.


EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — A search for two missing canoeists has resumed on the Chippewa River in Eau Claire.

Crews were back on the river Wednesday looking for two men whose canoe capsized Tuesday afternoon.

An Eau Claire police spokesman says searchers have not been able to find the two men, believed to be about 20 years old, or their canoe.

Police have received no missing person reports and have not been able to identify the missing canoeists.

A kayaker spotted the two hanging on to their canoe and tried to throw them a rope. The kayaker ended up flipping his boat and swam to shore.

WEAU-TV (http://bit.ly/18cfXqW) reports searchers on the water and in the air worked about five hours Tuesday, but could not find the men.



MILWAUKEE (AP) — One way that activists are getting out the word about this year's May Day immigration marches and rallies is with social media.

Jorge Maya, of Milwaukee, is one of the leaders of Youth Empowered in the Struggle, or YES, a student activist group. He says Twitter and Facebook are one of the easiest and most effective ways to reach people.

Maya says he tweeted a picture from an action forum called after President Barack Obama issued his June directive that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits.

Maya says the picture was retweeted by organizations with thousands of followers and quickly went viral.

He says his tweet for Wednesday's rally in Milwaukee would be: "2013. The time is now."