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High School Students Extend Immigration Protests

High School Students Extend Immigration Protests Into 3rd Day

By Joel Rubin and Cynthia H. Cho, Times Staff Writers
12:27 PM PST, March 27, 2006

Thousands of students walked out of high schools in Los Angeles and across Southern California this morning as protests against restrictions on immigration spread across the city for a fourth day.

School walkouts were reported at schools in San Diego and Orange counties, and in the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County. There were also immigrant rights marches nationwide.

In Los Angeles, dozens of schools experienced walkouts, with the major events downtown, where several thousand students converged on City Hall, and on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley.

At noon, aides to Antonio Villaraigosa escorted representatives of half a dozen high schools to meet with the Los Angeles mayor, and California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante addressed the crowd, telling the demonstrators they are sending an important message to Washington.

"Let's remember why we are all here," Bustamante said. "Your voice will be carried all the way to Washington. That's why we're here."

As of 10:35 a.m., there were 14,415 students out of classes in "little bits here and there," according to Ellen Morgan, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Many students waved Mexican flags as they poured out of sch ools and onto city streets.

"Everything has been calm and there have been no reports of injuries or incidents," said Morgan.

The major walkouts were:

Kennedy High School in the San Fernando Valley, where 1,000 students marched toward San Fernando High School, at about 9:35 a.m.

At about 9:00 a.m., 1,000 students at Los Angeles High School at 4650 West Olympic Boulevard walked to Fairfax and Hollywood high schools, which were both locked down.

School police patrol cars stopped traffic as students walked down the streets, causing traffic jams along La Brea and Melrose avenues.

"If this law passes, what will happen? There would be no more Los Angeles High School. Nearly all of us are immigrants," said Yadira Pech, a 16-year-old junior from Los Angeles High.

"We need to show that we have a voice," Pech said.

Also about 9:30 a.m., 1,000 students from Belmont High School were marching toward City Hall downtown. Fifteen minutes later , LAPD officers estimated that the crowd downtown had grown to 1,500. Protesters waved flags and signs and chanted, "Latinos, stand up!"

"This is unjust. This land used to belong to us and now they're trying to kick us out," said Sandra Molina, 16, a junior from Downtown Magnet High School.

Television crews swarmed the south steps of City Hall to cover the demonstration. Students alternated between being interviewed, and using cell phones to call friends, urging them to join the walkout.

Many other schools experienced smaller walkouts this morning, with a couple dozen students ore more walking out of Southgate Middle School; Huntington Park High School, where the walkouts began Friday; Bell High School; Marshall High School; Birmingham High School; Gardena High School; and Palisades High School, according to the LAUSD.

At 8:30 a.m., walkouts were reported at Van Nuys High School and Irving Middle School. Then, at Curtiss Middle School; Roosevelt High Sch ool; at Southgate High School; at the Elizabeth Learning Center, and reportedly at Carson High School.

By 8:45 a.m., walkouts were growing at Bell, Southgate and Huntington Park high schools. Students from all three campuses joined at Florence and Pacific avenues. Some 500 students were involved.

At 10 a.m. new walkouts were reported at Gompers Middle School; at McClay Middle School; at Grant High School, and at Drew Middle School.

On Friday, hundreds of students left the campuses of Huntington Park, South Gate, Montebello, Jordan, Garfield, Roosevelt, Washington Preparatory and Bell high schools.

Some 73% of the 877,010 LAUSD students this year are Latino, Morgan said.

While students marched in Los Angeles, immigration rights activists continued their protests in Washington and Detroit.

At the U.S. Capitol, more than 100 demon strators wore handcuffs to protest a bill passed by the House last year that would criminalize illegal immigration.

In Detroit, more than a thousand Latinos marched against the House bill, continuing a weekend of protests that brought hundreds of thousands into the streets in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Milwaukee. This morning, hundreds of high school students walked out in Dallas.

Meanwhile, President Bush used a naturalization ceremony swearing in 30 new citizens from 20 countries to warn critics of his proposal to let some illegal immigrants remain in the United State against stoking anti-immigrant feelings.

"The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and dignified way," the president said as the Senate prepared to tackle the hot-button election issue of what to do with the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is discussing an immigration bill today.

Overhauling the nation's immigration laws "is not going to be easy," Bush said at the naturalization ceremony at Constitution Hall, two blocks from the White House.

"No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other," Bush said. "No one should pretend that immigrants are threats to America's identity because immigrants have shaped America's identity.

"No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on our economy because the work and enterprise of immigrants helps sustain our economy," the president said. "We should not give in to pessimism. If we work together, I am confident we can meet our duty to fix our immigration system and deliver a bill that protects our people, upholds our laws and makes our people proud."

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