April 10 is a National Day of Action for immigrant rights. Another round of organized marches and gatherings are set to take place all across the United States to call for fair and humane immigration reform.
This past month, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to bring awareness of the unfair immigration reforms being considered by Congress. This sudden surge of activism was made all the more poignant by the participation of high school students in a wide range of walkouts across the nation.
It was reminiscent of the 1968 high school walkouts in Los Angeles nearly 40 years ago, when tens of thousands of predominantly Mexican American students peacefully protested the educational inequality faced by Latino youth in public schools.
In Southern California alone, an estimated 40,000 students participated in protests starting on March 24.
In El Paso, Texas, students walked out several consecutive days, each time moving from school to school to gather more people on their march through downtown and to the bridge at the Mexican border.
In Chicago, Milwaukee and other cities throughout the country, the rallies were successful in drawing attention to the positive role undocumented immigrants play in our society. The rallies also denounced the House bill that would, among other things, classify undocumented immigrants as felons. This is an extreme measure not supported in opinion polls.
The bill would also reduce the court's ability to review immigration issues, and would unnecessarily delay deportation of immigrants by turning them over to federal authorities and imposing on them a $15,000 fine.
Another highly controversial provision of the bill would split U.S.-born children of immigrants from their undocumented parents, separating them from their families and making them wards of the state.
Finally, the bill would make it a crime, punishable up to five years in prison, for religious and humanitarian individuals to assist undocumented workers.
The bill would deny basic rights to the 12 million undocumented Latinos living in the United States. It takes advantage of our fears about terrorism and targets a portion of our population that is vulnerable.
We must speak out against these unfair reforms, and take the actions of our youth to heart.
José Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and novelist living in San Antonio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.