The LiveJournalists wake up; protest-fever must be over (updated)

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We can only assume the media’s interest in “La Gran Marcha” has peaked, since the Editorial LiveJournalists have now weighed in with not one, but two approving editorials. They applaud the school-ditching, Mexican-flag waving youth activists, and look forward to the time when the students graduate from school and vote (although they do caution the “children” that carrying Mexican flags and shouting “Viva Mexico” might not be the best way to get their message across…whatever their message is).

The most hilarious quote of the day is in the Chron‘s news story, from a very earnest high school freshman:

“There’s no other way to be heard … It’s not the best way or the right way, but it’s our way,” Reagan freshman Jose Lopez, 14, said of the effort.

That’s a kid who really needs to get back to class!

Second most hilarious quote of the day:

Jose Cantu, 18, a junior at Reagan, said he read the 54-page bill Wednesday so he could understand why he’s protesting. “It got confusing,” he said. “So I wanted to see the whole thing.”


Slampo covers all the bases in this post, including our fine local media’s reporting efforts, and the fact that many of these students appear to have snoozed through history classes in 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, etc., grades.

And Banjo points out that protesting in ’06 is much easier than it was back in the ’60s. (Speaking of which, the Chron‘s story notes that sending HISD buses to fetch Tuesday’s protesters, after they met with Mayor White and Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, cost taxpayers $5,500.)

UPDATE: Fun and games and ditching school are over. HPD and HISD have had enough:

Dozens of HISD student protesters were stopped in their tracks by Houston police Thursday morning.

Twenty-six students were arrested on curfew violations and taken to the juvenile detention center.

The HISD students walked out of classrooms again Thursday to protest proposed immigration reform in the U.S. Senate.

According to HISD spokesman Terry Abbott, about 150 students from Madison High School and Dowling Middle School left school.

They were planning to march to Westbury High School but several HPD officers stopped the students before they could get to Westbury. Some of the students were questioned, frisked and arrested.

One girl was transported to the hospital after reportedly having an asthma attack.

HISD sent buses to pick up the rest of the students and take them back to school.

Here’s the first editorial, titled “Children’s Crusade”:

WHEN Latino students in the Houston area marched out of school this week, no pundit, lawmaker or establishment activist led the way. Instead, the thousand-plus youths who demonstrated against proposed immigration laws were marching to less obvious drumbeats — Spanish language TV and electronic chatter among themselves. One has to hope that these 21st century influences will now propel these students into community activism that is as effective as it is praiseworthy.

According to a story by Chronicle reporter Cynthia Leonor Garza, students here went on the move after following immigration developments on Spanish language TV, reading peers’ entries on the social Web site MySpace and communicating furiously among themselves via text message and cell phone.

Many of the students only recently learned of a restrictive immigration enforcement bill, approved by the House of Representatives in December, which would make undocumented immigrants and those who aid them into felons.

For the Latino students in Houston, and the more than 22,000 students in similar walkouts in Los Angeles, that proposed criminalization of illegal immigrants was a catalyst. Many of the students, themselves American citizens, told reporters they felt they had to defend family members and loved ones who were undocumented and faced a looming injustice.

School walkouts like this week’s are a decades-old Latino tradition, University of Houston sociologist Nestor Rodriguez noted. From Los Angeles to Houston, most of the young people made their statement with discipline. Some, like students from Eisenhower High School, showed considerable mettle, trudging nine miles from their starting point to a U.S. immigration office. Several of the week’s protesters told reporters they were exhilarated by this first taste of civic participation.

Now this peaceful, promising army of young activists needs to walk their walk. In future protests, they should understand that Mexican flags, though they might symbolize ethnic solidarity and reverence for roots, are read by many non-Latinos as a lack of commitment to U.S. society.

Prolonged absence from school risks deterioration into an unwitting symbol of Latinos’ weakness as a community: a dropout rate that stunts millions of lives in Texas alone.

Houston’s student protesters have given themselves something to prove. They need to stay in school and graduate. Then they need to vote, and study to be doctors, lawyers and legislators. School walkouts are a tool of the marginalized. Making fair law is the privilege of the powerful.

Here’s the second editorial, titled “Drastic Measures”:

AFTER an intense debate that saw an unusually high level of Republican infighting, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected proposals that would have turned the 11 million or more illegal immigrants in the United States into felony fugitives. Members of the U.S. House, however, did not flinch: They passed a similar proposal by a wide margin last December.

Should such a large segment of the U.S. population be turned into criminals, how would their arrest, imprisonment and deportation be accomplished? The draconian antidrug laws passed in the 1980s should serve as a warning example.

Like the crack epidemic of 20 years ago, today’s uncontrolled immigration causes justifiable concern: What is the impact of playing host to nearly 12 million persons whose identities are unknown to government, whose unskilled and cheaply purchased labor is needed but whose unreimbursed medical and education expenses drain the public purse?

Two decades ago, state and national lawmakers addressed the explosion in rock cocaine selling and related violence with laws that require harsh prison sentences that often excluded treatment and probation. Now, academics, law enforcement officials and community leaders question the wisdom of such inflexible rules.

The harsh sentencing laws disproportionately affected minority offenders. Lengthy mandatory prison terms decimated communities and made hundreds of thousands of young people unemployable.

House lawmakers could be traveling down a similar road. The bill passed by the House in December makes it a felony to be an illegal immigrant in the United States; calls for 700 miles of fence along the Mexico-U.S. border; requires employers to verify the Social Security number of every employee; mandates detention of non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested at all ports of entry; and establishes mandatory sentences for immigrant smuggling and postdeportation re-entry. The bill has no guest worker provision, which President Bush seeks.

Spurred, some say, by massive protests in several states, U.S. senators approved and sent to the floor an immigration bill that is less stringent than it might have been. The bill provides a path to continued work and permanent residency for illegal immigrants in the country before 2004. It would more than double the current force of 11,300 Border Patrol agents and provide a “virtual wall” of unmanned vehicles and electronic border monitoring. If passed, the Senate and House bills would have to be reconciled.

The demonstrations, including one in Los Angeles over the weekend that attracted half a million marchers, vividly conveyed the passions of a large segment of the U.S. population. However, the protesters who carried Mexican flags and shouted “Viva Mexico” fueled many Americans’ fear that uncontrolled immigration would foster wholesale, unwanted change to U.S. culture.

The United States for too long has dealt with its illegal immigration issues through hand-wringing unaccompanied by effective action. But the growing unease with the immigration status quo should not lead the country to make capricious decisions that soon will be regretted as prisons overflow and inhumane exploitation of workers increases.

As we are learning from the negative consequences of harsh antidrug policies, troubling times do not, in fact, always call for drastic measures.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.