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Students stage new immigration protests; demonstrations peaceful
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-01 09:44 (KST)   
By ELLIOT SPAGAT

SAN DIEGO

Thousands of students protesting tough immigration bills being debated in Congress marched in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona. Authorities said the demonstrations were peaceful, but there was a stabbing during a smaller protest in Virginia.

The demonstrations coincided 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.

The student protests coincided with a two-day summit in Cancun, Mexico, where President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are embroiled in anintense debate over immigration legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to tighten borders and make it a crime to be in the United States illegally or to offer aid to illegal immigrants. The Senate is debating the issue.

Students waved Mexican flags and signs saying ''We are not criminals'' as they demonstrated in San Diego's Chicano Park. A police spokesman said there were 1,500 protesters, although earlier police estimates put the number as high as 4,000.

Students distributed leaflets explaining a provision of a bill approved in the House that calls for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration. Its prospects for becoming law are uncertain.

''This law if it passes will affect pretty much everyone I know _ aunts, uncles, friends,'' said protester Jessica Hurtado, a U.S.-born senior at La Jolla High School whose parents came from Mexico and are now legal residents.

Hurtado, who painted the words ''No violencia'' on her cheeks, said her relativesand friends would be scared to even go to a hospital out of fear of deportation if the House bill becomes law.

Sheriff's deputies monitored at least 200 students from north San Diego County high schools who walked to California State University, San Marcos.

''To their credit, the students have been very peaceful, which corresponds to Cesar Chavez's legacy,'' said sheriff's Lt. Jim Bolwerk.

About 1,000 students marched in Bakersfield, in California's Central Valley. But there were no reports of walkouts in the giant Los Angeles Unified School District, where a week of youthful outcry began with tens of thousands of students leaving classes, triggering a police crackdown on truancy.

In Nevada, Las Vegas police and school officials said at least 3,000 students left high schools, middle schools and a community college after the morning bell. They marched to several locations, including the Las Vegas Strip, and rallied at City Hall and the county courthouse.

One student was arrested for carrying a gun but no shots were fired, Las Vegas police Sgt. Chris Jones said.

Ashlee Espinoza, 16, who attends Desert Pines High School, said the U.S. government was unfairly targeting Hispanics.

''It's not fair that they just focus on us,'' said Espinoza, who was born in California and has lived in Las Vegas for nine years.

''I'm an American. Some of us we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us.'' In Arizona, about 900 to 1,000 Tucson middle school students and another 300 high school students walked out of classes Friday, the third day of demonstrations.

Police escorted student groups to Rodeo Park on the city's southwest side and to City Hall ''to make sure that the kids cross the streets in a safe manner, and that they are able to exercise their First Amendment rights,'' Tucson police spokesman Sgt. Decio Hopffer said.

In El Paso, Texas, thousands of high school students clogged downtown streets during a third day of protests against immigration proposals that call for a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Chanting ''Viva Mexico!'' and waving Mexican flags, the students converged on a downtown El Paso plaza to join a rally of several hundred others in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. There were smaller student demonstrations in Austin, Fort Worth and Tyler.

In Virginia's Fairfax County, a high school student was stabbed during a protest that drew about 75 people Friday.

The 16-year-old boy was hospitalized with injuries that police said were not believed to be life-threatening. Two teenagers were arrested; police said they did not know whether the suspects had been among the protesters.

At issue in the immigration controversy is a debate over a proposal that would legalize an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and expand ''guest worker'' programs to allow undocumented immigrants already in the United States to remain in the country.

Both Bush and Fox support temporary guest-worker programs for Mexican migrants in theU.S, but the measure has met strong resistance by some key U.S. lawmakers.

Bush has urged U.S. lawmakers to tread cautiously to avoid further inflaming passions on this divisive issue. But Democratic Party chief Howard Dean on Friday accused the president and Republicans of exploiting the immigration issue for political gain by scapegoating Hispanics.

During a speech in an Oakland, California, union hall, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate sought to tie Bush to the tough House bill that would tighten borders and criminalize being in the United States illegally. Bush does not back that bill.

''This is a nonsensical proposal put out by far right-wingers in the Republican Party who have been endorsed for re-election by the president of the United States,'' Dean said. ''The president has a moral obligation to rein in the right-wing extremists in his party and stop this divisive rhetoric about immigrants.'' Danny Diaz, a Republican National Committee spokesman in Washington, saidDean was twisting the facts on immigration.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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