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Thousands of Students Boost US 'People Power'
Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 by Agence France-Presse
Thousands of Students Boost US 'People Power'
 

Thousands of high school pupils across the United States boycotted classes for the third straight day, hoping to derail a proposed law that would criminalise millions of illegal immigrants.


Thousands of students boost US 'people power' immigration protest
Mainly Hispanic students in California, Nevada and Texas walked out of classes in a snowballing protest against proposed law reforms that have sparked fear and anger among US Hispanics, now the largest US minority group.

Around 11,000 students in the Los Angeles area took part in the walkout, school officials said.

"It's smaller than yesterday," said Monica Carazo of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The fresh boycott came a day after more than 36,000 students stormed out of class and marched on streets and freeways across the Los Angeles area to protest the immigration bill adopted by the US House of Representatives.

Scores of schools across the second largest US city were Tuesday put under a strict lockdown to avoid mass walkouts, but students defied the ban and even the rare event of rain did not prevent hundreds of them from taking to the streets.

One group of about 200 massed in the city's San Pedro area and began marching along rainswept roads early Tuesday, despite warnings that disciplinary action could be taken against them for skipping school.

LAUSD chief Roy Romer warned students that starting Wednesday they would be treated as truants if they did not turn up for class or if they walked out.

"It's one thing to have a spontaneous demonstration of free speech, but it's another to have continued absences. We have a legal obligation and a parent has a legal obligation to have their youngsters in school."

Police herded about 150 students off an access road leading to a major bridge, citing around 50 of them.

The city's police chief said the action was overstretching his force and posing a danger to students and traffic.

In the California town of San Diego, south of Los Angeles on the Mexican border, more than 800 students had walked out of class or boycotted school entirely, officials said.

Thousands of other high school pupils walked out of class in large and small towns across California, the most populous US state with a population one-third Hispanic.

Similar scenes were reported in the desert gambling hub of Las Vegas in Nevada and in Texas cities, including the major hub of Dallas, as the student movement against the reforms appeared to gather further steam after kicking off with a series of school walkouts last Friday.

On Saturday, 500,000 brought Los Angeles to a standstill by staging one of the biggest demonstrations in recent US history against the proposed crackdown, while 50,000 people protested on Monday in the northeastern US auto-making capital of Detroit over the issue.

The immigration reforms, backed mainly by conservative Republicans, target the more than 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

The US House of Representatives in December passed a bill that would make illegal entry in the United States a crime and heavily penalise employers of undocumented workers, opening the floodwaters of protest in the Hispanic community.

But on Monday a key US Senate panel endorsed a different bill that would allow illegal workers to obtain visas, and sent the legislation to the full Senate for a likely heated debate.

The hardline plans have sparked anger in the more than 32 million people of Hispanic origin living in the United States, who make up more than 12 percent of the population and wield growing political and economic clout.

Organisers of Saturday's protest in Los Angeles said they were planning a massive countrywide Latino boycott of American life on May 1 that will be dubbed "A day without Latinos or a day without immigrants."

"We are asking people not to go to school, or work, or shopping and instead to go out and protest against the racist and inhumane measures in this bill," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association.

The explosion of protests has caught the administration of President George W. Bush offguard and revealed a split in his Republican Party between hardline ideologists who want to expel undocumented workers and economic pragmatists who say that illegal immigrants do critical jobs that Americans refuse to take.

© 2006 AFP

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