Student Protesters March In Opposition To Ariz. Immigration Law
Hundreds Of Students Expected To Rally At Capitol
ABC 7 News
April 30, 2010
DENVER -- Hundreds of Denver-area students participated in a walkout Friday, heading to the Colorado State Capitol to protest Arizona's new law on illegal immigrants.
The protesters were expected to hear speeches at the capitol, once they arrive.
At Lincoln High School, about 150 students participated in a walkout and march. They headed up Federal Boulevard, on their way to the capitol. They were escorted by Denver police for safety.
Groups of students from other schools also participated in the capitol rally. About 1,000 students had arrived by 3 p.m.
The students, holding handmade signs and U.S. and Mexican flags, cheered when passing cars honked. Music blared from a speaker on the Capitol steps before a rally began.
Some students yelled "Stop racial profiling," referring to the Arizona's law requirement that authorities question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
Martha Alvarez, 17, from Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, said she and other students got the word about the protest by text messages and a Facebook page. A few students from the school walked out of class and took the light rail downtown.
"I feel like we need to support people against (the law) so we don't get that here," Alvarez said.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who isn't seeking re-election, has said he would veto any new laws like the one in Arizona. Scott McInnis, the GOP frontrunner in the governor's race, would support a similar law.
Two men from a Denver veterans' home at the side of the crowd were the only visible counter-protesters. Carrying U.S. and Army flags, they held signs that read "Illegal is still illegal." Alan Maurer said he doesn't "necessarily support the Arizona law" but that people who want to live and work in this country should go through the legal channels.
The organizers of the walkout are also calling for a boycott of Arizona-based companies.
The Arizona law that drew their ire, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer April 23, prohibits police from racially profiling or stopping anybody merely because of appearance or ethnicity. They may inquire about immigration status only if there is justification for the stop -- such as investigating a possible crime -- and there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the U.S. illegally.
While supporters say the law is necessary because of the federal government's failure to secure the border and growing anxiety over crime related to illegal immigration, critics say it's unconstitutional and encourages racial profiling and discrimination against immigrants or anyone thought to be an immigrant.
Activists fear that without federal legislation in place to address the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., other states will follow Arizona's lead and pass similar legislation.
"If Republicans and Democrats do not take care of this albatross around our necks, this will in fact be the undoing of many, many years of civil rights struggle in this country," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, where a downtown march is planned on Saturday. "I'm hoping that there is enough fire in people's hearts and minds to urge them to be mobilized."
But chances the federal government will step in this year seemed slim.
President Barack Obama, who had once promised to tackle immigration reform in his first 100 days but has pushed back that timetable several times, said this week that Congress may lack the "appetite" to take on immigration after going through a tough legislative year.