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Student Protests Grow, Spread to Md.

Vanessa Amaya, 15, left, walks through Courthouse Plaza draped in the Puerto Rican flag. Helping carry the flag are her fellow classmates at Washington-Lee, Yaritza Aquino, 16, and Andrew Rodriguez, 15. About 1,500 Northern Virginia students turned out in a third day of protests for immigration rights.
Vanessa Amaya, 15, left, walks through Courthouse Plaza draped in the Puerto Rican flag. Helping carry the flag are her fellow classmates at Washington-Lee, Yaritza Aquino, 16, and Andrew Rodriguez, 15. About 1,500 Northern Virginia students turned out in a third day of protests for immigration rights. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Tara Bahrampour and Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 31, 2006

Demonstrations among high schoolers and middle schoolers spread yesterday as 1,500 students in Northern Virginia and a smaller group in Maryland poured into the streets to protest proposed federal legislation that would crack down on illegal immigrants.

Draped in flags of Latin American countries and ignoring threats from some school administrators, students from Arlington County, Fairfax County and Falls Church left school -- or skipped going altogether -- to converge at Ballston Metro and march to Courthouse Plaza in Arlington.

Although several District and Maryland schools have significant Latino populations, students in these areas have been slower to protest. Yesterday, however, about 300 students at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington staged a brief walkout.

It was the third time this week that large numbers of Northern Virginia students have joined nationwide protests against proposed legislation that would make being an illegal immigrant a felony and make it a crime to assist them.

Yesterday's walkouts elicited a variety of responses from school officials, from nods of support from principals and teachers to threats of suspension from district officials.

Many students said they worried their parents could be deported after years -- or decades -- of working and paying taxes in the United States.

"We're fighting for our parents and their rights 'cause they fight for us," said Jessica Montufar, 17, a junior at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, "GUATEMALA" written on her arm in black marker.

Montufar, whose parents emigrated from Guatemala 20 years ago, said as a U.S. citizen it was her responsibility to speak out for them. "Our parents, if they would be out here protesting, they have a fear that they could be sent back," she said.

At Courthouse Plaza, students held placards that denounced House Resolution 4437 and shouted, "America was built by immigrants!" and "We are not criminals!"

Kellie Mylko, 15, a sophomore at Washington-Lee, said she helped organize the effort to show that students "have a voice."

"We are the next major bloc of voters," she said. "They need to know what we think."

As with protests earlier this week, students learned of the action by word of mouth, fliers, text messages, and the Web site MySpace.com.


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