- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thousands of people across the country protested yesterday against legislation cracking down on illegal aliens, with demonstrators in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta and Cleveland staging school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.

Congress is considering bills that would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally. They also would impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens and erect fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border. The proposals have angered many Hispanics.

The Los Angeles demonstration led to fights between black and Hispanic students at one high school, but the protests were largely peaceful, authorities said.

Chantal Mason, a sophomore at George Washington Preparatory High, said black students jumped Hispanic students as they left classes to protest a bill passed the House in December that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally.

“It was horrible, horrible,” Chantal said. “It’s ridiculous that a bunch of black students would jump on Latinos like that, knowing they’re trying to get their freedom.”

In Phoenix, police said 20,000 demonstrators marched to the office of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, co-sponsor of a bill that would give illegal aliens up to five years to leave the country. The turnout clogged a major thoroughfare.

“They’re here for the American Dream,” said Malissa Greer, 29 “God created all of us. He’s not a God of the United States, he’s a God of the world.”

Mr. Kyl said that most were speaking out against the House bill making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant, not his bill, which would also step up border enforcement and create a temporary guest-worker program.

In Los Angeles, more than 2,700 students from at least eight high schools and junior high schools walked out, district officials said. Some carried Mexican flags as they walked down the streets, police cruisers behind them.

In Georgia, activists said tens of thousands of workers did not show up at their jobs yesterday after calls for a work stoppage to protest a bill passed by the Georgia House on Thursday.

That bill, which has yet to gain Senate approval, would deny state services to adults living in the U.S. illegally and impose a 5 percent surcharge on wire transfers from illegal aliens.

Supporters say the Georgia measure is vital to homeland security and frees up limited state services for people legally entitled to them. Opponents say it unfairly targets workers meeting the demands of some of the state’s largest industries.

Teodoro Maus, an organizer of the Georgia protest, estimated as many as 80,000 Hispanics did not show up for work. About 200 converged on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, some wrapped in Mexican flags and holding signs reading: “Don’t panic, we’re Hispanic” and “We have a dream, too.”

In Cleveland, about 100 protesters stood on the City Hall steps, waving Mexican flags and holding signs written in English and Spanish, and calling on Congress to create laws that respect immigrants as workers.

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