Immigration Law Protests March On

Aaron Carrillo, 18, holds up a card as he joins student protesters during an immigration rally in Las Vegas, March 31, 2006. Police and school officials said at least 2,300 students attended. AP

Several thousand students on Friday walked out at nearly two dozen Las Vegas area schools while hundreds more held demonstrations in several California cities, in a renewal of protests over immigration policies being debated in the U.S. Congress.

Under a heavy police presence in downtown Las Vegas, scattered groups of students totaling about 3,000 in all, chanted slogans and carried Mexican and American flags as they called for an end to anti-immigrant legislation.

The student protests coincided with a two-day summit in Cancun, Mexico, where President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are embroiled in an intense debate over immigration legislation.

Mr. Bush said the United States believes it is important to enforce laws protecting borders and told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that doing so was crucial to keeping prosperity alive.

He also reiterated strong support for a "guest worker" program that would allow undocumented immigrants already in the United States to remain in the country to fill low-paying jobs that Americans won't take.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to tighten borders and make it a crime to be in the United States illegally or to offer aid to illegal immigrants. The Senate is debating the issue.

Heleodoro Carillo, 14, a student at a Las Vegas school said he joined the protest after arriving at school "so we can take off the law."

"They want to put the law at the border so Mexicans can't cross," Carillo said.

At the Cancun meeting Friday, Bush highlighted the importance of enforcing laws protecting the border.

Ashlee Espinoza, 16, who attends Desert Pines High School, said the U.S. government was unfairly targeting Hispanics.

"It's not fair that they just focus on us," said Espinoza, who was born in California and has lived in Las Vegas for nine years. "I'm an American. Some of us we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."

At issue in the immigration controversy is a debate over a proposal that would legalize an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and expand "guest worker" programs to allow undocumented immigrants already in the United States to remain in the country.

Both Bush and Fox support temporary guest-worker programs for Mexican migrants in the U.S, but the measure has met strong resistance by some key U.S. lawmakers.

  • Joel Roberts

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