Monday, April 26, 2010

High school students protest immigration law

Joy Slagowski
Today staff

More than 200 Surprise and El Mirage students from three high schools took their education from the classroom into the streets on Monday by protesting Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.

The bill, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Friday, requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents with them at all times and requires police to question the residency status of those they suspect may be in the United States illegally.

Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling.

André Rodriguez, 15, of Surprise, a student at Valley Vista High School, said he organized the event that morning at school in reaction to student dissatisfaction about the immigration bill.

"I was born in Phoenix, and my parents are U.S. citizens," Rodriguez said. "But I’m angry because I feel they are racially profiling and it’s not right."

The group marched in Surprise and El Mirage, carrying American flags and handmade signs, starting from Valley Vista, near Surprise Stadium, stopping at Walgreen’s at Dysart and Greenway roads in El Mirage to connect with students from Arizona Charter Academy who joined the march, and then proceeded to Dysart High School, where students filed off the campus to join the march.

Passing cars honked in support, and El Mirage police officers watched to make sure protesters stayed out of the street.

Jim Dean, Dysart Unified School District spokesman, said the district does not condone missing school for a protest march, but acknowledges it is their right to exercise free speech.

"We like to have the kids in school," Dean said. "But people do have the right to gather and peacefully protest."

"Education comes in many forms, and we understand and appreciate and try to incorporate real life applications," Dean said. "And this certainly can be viewed as a type of education, but we prefer to educate them during school hours."

Rodriguez said missing school because of the protest was a concern, but felt the students were getting a different type of education today through using their rights to free speech.

"We’re still getting an education," Rodriguez said. "And if what we do can help change a law, that would be great. This feels good, like we are making a difference."

"This is our America," he said. "This is less about us, but about the future with our kids and grandkids, the future of our citizens."

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