Students rally against immigration proposals
Dozens of Latino students in South Lake Tahoe used cell-phone text messaging to organize small rallies Monday against proposed immigration laws before the U.S. Senate. They said they were inspired after seeing nationwide protests on TV.
“We are here to protest these laws because we believe they are racist,” said Carina Martinez, a South Tahoe High School student who stood with about 15 classmates at the entrance to Lake Tahoe Unified School District headquarters on Al Tahoe Boulevard Monday morning.
Similar protests were held at schools throughout California, including Truckee and Tahoe City and across the state line in Incline Village and Carson City.
A group of 30 to 40 students marched along Blackwood Avenue Monday afternoon near Bijou Elementary School chanting “Mexico” and waiving flags. The street, which parallels Ski Run Boulevard, is speckled with low-income apartment buildings that are home to many Latinos.
The students said they were all U.S. citizens, but some of their parents are not. They said Hispanics are the backbone of the region’s economy and touted the movie “A Day Without a Mexican” which depicts the predicted outcome of Latino workers disappearing from California for a day.
South Shore’s school district has about 1,500 Latino students, about 400 of which are at South Tahoe High School.
According to 2000 Census data, South Lake Tahoe is 26 percent Latino. While some own their own businesses and homes, many work for minimum wage in the casino, restaurant, lawn care and building industries.
The House has already passed a bill that would make it a felony to be in the United State without legal papers, or to provide aid to an illegal immigrant. That measure has many groups in an uproar, including the Catholic church, and did not gain support in the Senate.
“This goes totally against what we stand for, what Christianity is all about, what the Gospel is all about,” said the Rev. Murrough Wallace of St. Theresa Catholic Church. He estimated a high percentage of those he connects with are illegal immigrants. But the church’s stance is that if someone comes to them in need of help, they help them.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure Monday to protect social-service groups from prosecution for assisting people who are in the country illegally.
District superintendent Jim Tarwater said students are considered truant if they leave campus. As of Monday afternoon, enrollment figures for the day found nothing anomalous in enrollment, he said. If students had not checked into class, the district faced losing money it receives from the state for attendance.
Students who did march called the proposed policy racist.
“Just listen to what we have to say and don’t judge us as criminals just because we’re Mexican,” said Monica Fausto, a South Tahoe High School student who was among the protesters.
Tarwater said the students have a right to protest, but should do it peacefully and within the boundaries of the law.
“To the parents: We want your child to always come to school. We will never close the door on any student because education is the road to success,” Tarwater said. “For the students, I can say that no one is going to be sent back to Mexico. They can show their pride by doing well in school.”
South Lake Tahoe police monitored the protest this morning, and returned some of the students to school.
“They were upset about the laws trying to be enacted,” said Lt. Martin Hale of the police department. “We got some calls from people saying the kids were out in the street.”
At Saturday morning’s protest, at least two parents appeared with the students. The other students were returned to school, Hale said.
The students are not in trouble. Officers were concerned about the children’s safety and the fact that they were protesting without their parents permission, Hale said.
In Truckee about 30 high school students walked out of their classroom at Truckee High School, and between 20 to 25 students walked out of North Tahoe High School in Tahoe City. Students also protested at Incline High School in Incline Village and in Carson City, about 300 students marched from Carson High School to the state capital building in protest.