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Rights Advocates Say Bill Is Too Convoluted to Enforce

At Bell Multicultural Senior High School in the District, Erica Barett, left, Sindy Mejicanos and Leyli Santos cheer on fellow students who walked out of class.
At Bell Multicultural Senior High School in the District, Erica Barett, left, Sindy Mejicanos and Leyli Santos cheer on fellow students who walked out of class. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)

Her view coincided with the assessment of a local advocate of stricter enforcement of immigration laws. "There's no possible way that the government can take something that complicated and do it correctly," said George Taplin of Herndon, director of a Virginia unit of the Minutemen, when told about the Senate proposal.

"The thing that has to happen, whatever else they do, is they have to secure the borders immediately," Taplin said.

The news generated some confusion in the area's Latino community, said the Rev. Jose Eugenio Hoyos, director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

"All day, people have been calling my office to say they wanted to understand what it meant," he said. "People are very anxious about what's happening and hungry for information."

When Hoyos explained the new bill, he said, his parishioners were uniformly against it.

"People are saying, 'Father, we don't want to be divided this way and valued differently,' " he said.

At three local high schools, hundreds of students -- mostly Latino -- walked out of class yesterday to show support for immigrant rights.

"We're not criminals! We are U.S.A., and we're not giving up!" shouted a student named Jessica, one of a few hundred gathered behind a chain-link fence at High Point High School in Beltsville. Another yelled, "Everybody's an immigrant!"

Students also demonstrated at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville and Bell Multicultural Senior High School in Northwest Washington.

Edith Perez, 16, a sophomore at Bell, said she is skeptical of the Senate proposal, citing the experience of her mother, who was deported to Mexico two years ago even though she had sought to apply for legal status.

When that happened, Edith said, "my dad got scared and decided not to go through the legal channels."

Jose Funes, 19, a senior at Bell, said: "Let people who are here stay here -- no matter how long they've been here. We're not criminals. We're here to work and to be somebody."

Staff writer V. Dion Haynes contributed to this report.


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