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Archive for Sunday, April 2, 2006

Students join immigration protests in Wichita, Topeka

April 2, 2006

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— More than 350 Kansas students walked out of high school Friday, joining thousands of students across the country demonstrating against immigration bills being debated in Congress.

Some 250 high school students carried flags from the United States and Latin American countries as they marched to Wichita's City Hall, where they gave speeches about their parents' lives as immigrants and chanted in English and Spanish.

Carlos Ramos, a junior at Wichita South High School, said the plan to walk out spread through word of mouth, and students decided to leave school even if they lacked permission.

"It started with a text message," Ramos said. "Everyone text messages everyone else. Most of us found out yesterday (Thursday)."

A group of about 100 Topeka students also marched Friday, the same day students in California, Texas, Nevada and other states held demonstrations against the federal proposals.

Many said they feared relatives could be deported if a bill calling for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration passes.

Most of the protests were peaceful and were timed to coincide with the 79th anniversary of the birth of the late Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers union who became a champion of poor, Hispanic agricultural workers in the 1960s and '70s.

There was a stabbing during a protest in Virginia, and another student was arrested in Las Vegas, however.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales told reporters Friday the students would be better off letting their voices be heard after school and on weekends.

"The children need to stay in school," Gonzales said.

Supt. Winston Brooks, of Wichita, said adults had encouraged the students to leave the classroom, and added that he would press charges should he discover any "legal violations encouraging students to be truant."

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a peaceful protest about something that you're passionate about," said Brooks. "What I am upset about is that we had some adults, not parents, that encouraged students to be truant today."

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