Students Leave Class to Protest Immigration Bills in Congress

Opposing immigration proposals, students from Prince William County schools line a road in Woodbridge.
Opposing immigration proposals, students from Prince William County schools line a road in Woodbridge. (By Peter Cihelka -- Potomac News Via Associated Press)
By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

About 250 Northern Virginia high schoolers demonstrated yesterday against congressional legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

About 150 mostly Hispanic students gathered outside Freedom High School in Woodbridge waving signs and shouting. School officials said about 100 Annandale High School students protested outside that school for about 45 minutes starting at noon.

A group of eight middle schoolers from Edgar Allen Poe in Annandale also walked out of class in protest. They returned shortly after a discussion with the principal, school officials said.

Holding posters that read in Spanish "We want rights" and waving Salvadoran and Mexican flags, Freedom students and some from other high schools in Prince William County demonstrated peacefully outside the school from about 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. while police and school administrators observed.

There were no arrests.

Students said they organized the protest by posting bulletins on the Web site .

"Let's see [what would happen] if Hispanics stop working for a day!" yelled Anthony Lemus, 16, a Freedom student.

"We'd have the crash of 1929," Yesenia Rivas, 15, shot back.

School officials who were watching the demonstration praised the students for being so orderly. "This is tremendously important to them. Everybody here knows or is related to an illegal immigrant," said Rae Darlington, associate superintendent of Prince William's school system.

Freedom's principal, Dorothy McCabe, said: "I'm so proud of them. They have a cause and know their rights."

No special punishments will be meted out for cutting class, McCabe said. Students who participated will receive warnings, detention or suspension, depending on their behavior record.

School administrators said they have organized a meeting today for the students with Carlos A. Castro, a local businessman and founder of Todos Supermarkets. Castro is expected to discuss with the students their civil rights and the bills before Congress.

Low-key local protests were in contrast with those yesterday in Los Angeles, where hundreds of mostly Latino students blocked two major downtown freeways, chanting in Spanish and waving flags from Mexico and El Salvador, Reuters reported. Traffic was snarled until police could move the students off the road, but no accidents, injuries or arrests were reported.

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