Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Utah students protest immigration bill

Utah students protest immigration bill

Article Last Updated: 3/28/2006 12:06 AM

Update: Utah students protest immigration bill

Jennifer W. Sanchez
The Salt Lake TribuneSalt Lake Tribune

Hundreds of Salt Lake City-area students skipped class today in protest of anti-immigration legislation as the U.S. Senate started debate on immigration reform.

Roughly 30 students marched across the street from West High School this morning. By midday, students walked out of class and the crowd grew to some 400 people, mostly Latino students. Students also walked out at Northwest Middle and Kearns High Schools.

No one was arrested or hurt during the protests as of early afternoon, said Jason Olsen, a Salt Lake City School District spokesman.

The Salt Lake City demonstrations come after several marches nationwide that drew hundreds of thousands of people protesting attempts to toughen laws against immigrants. At West High School, 241 N. 300 W. in downtown Salt Lake City, people chanted, "Students united, we'll never be divided" and "Vote No on HR4437."

The U.S. House of Representatives in December passed HR4437, which would boost border security and strengthen enforcement of immigration laws, making it a felony to be in the United States without proper documentation. Utah's three House members voted for the bill. An estimated 12 million undocumented residents live in the United States , including roughly 90,000 in Utah, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

People also carried signs made out of poster boards and cardboard boxes that read: "We are the American Dream," "We're not criminals" and "We are the future." Andrea, a West sophomore who declined to give her last name, said her reasons for marching were in protest to HR4437 and to support her undocumented peers and neighbors who are being targeted.

"We're here to let everyone know it's wrong that they're treating immigrants like felons," she said. "They're people, they should be treated as such." Olsen said the protests were "a problem" because they were held during school hours and state law says students must be in class. "It's good that the students are standing up for what they believe in, but the timing is a bit unfortunate," Olsen said.

"A protest like this after school hours would have been great."

jsanchez@sltrib.com

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