Traffic along South Main slowed down Friday afternoon as drivers took notice of a group of Weatherford students who walked out from school in protest of the immigration legislation being discussed in Washington D.C.

Just over a dozen students from the Ninth Grade Center walked off campus at 11:30 a.m. and headed toward Cherry Park carrying signs and chanting “Sí se puede, yes we can.”

Numerous families were enjoying the warm weather with their children at the park. As the students marched onto the city property many parents heads turned.

As the students chanted “We love USA” and “We are Americans” some of the parents showed approval with their smiles.

However, during the students’ march through town, several people shook their heads in opposition and some even shouted for them to “go back to Mexico.”

Ninth Grade Center Principal Jim Vaszauskas said a guest speaker visited his students Thursday to explain the facts and encouraged the students to write letters.

“We offered what we thought was a better solution,” Vaszauskas said. “We don’t agree that they walked out, and they will be held accountable to the student code of conduct for it.”

Students who walked out will receive an unexcused absence for the class time they missed.

“I’m proud of these kids,” Vaszauskas said. “They are great kids and they feel very passionate about this issue. Some of the best kids I know are in that group. Hopefully, once they’re done here they will write letters and become registered voters.”

Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Joe Schultz said while the proposed legislation does not directly impact all of the area residents, it is a direct hit on these students and their families.

“The district respects their rights as individuals to peacefully protests, and they are peacefully protesting,” he said. “From the few comments I’m hearing right here it sounds like they’re fairly well educated.”

More students arrived by car at the park and then walked back to the Ninth Grade Center where students from Weatherford High School had walked to. From there the group of about 50 kids marched back down South Main making stops at the Parker County Courthouse and Weatherford City Hall before returning to Cherry Park.

“We decided to come here, but not do what Dallas and Fort Worth did,” Marina Ramirez said. “We took a different approach.

“Our families have worked so hard to give us a better life,” she said. “We have to support our families because they broke their backs trying to come here to make a better future.”

Vaszauskas said the speaker who visited the students encouraged them not to display the Mexican flag if they protested because it alienates them from other Americans.

The ninth grade students carried patriotic signs and a few small American flags, however, several high school students displayed large Mexican flags. All the students wore white, which they said was a sign of unity and peace.

Ramirez said they were representing all immigrants and not just those from Mexico.

“We want to change people’s views and set an example for all the schools,” Dashia Hernandez said.

Joe Castaneda, a high school student, said he decided leaving campus was a more peaceful way to express his opposition because he had been confronted by students earlier in the day who wanted to fight him because of a petition he was passing around.

“My petition is to, at the very least, lower the price of citizenship,” Castaneda said. “Most [immigrants work] for less than $7 an hour. How are we going to pull out $800 from our pocket for every single member of our family.”

Ramirez, who was the most outspoken of the group and kept her fellow students motivated, said the government needs to look at the bigger picture if they are going to tighten border security on the premise of keeping terrorists out of the country.

“The terrorists are here in America,” she said. “They are born here. Like the Oklahoma bombing, that was an American citizen. It wasn’t a Chinese person, an Asian person or a Mexican, it was an American citizen who was born here.”

Other students were upset over the possibly criminalization of assisting illegal immigrants.

“They say if they see us helping another Mexican it’s going to be criminal,” Jessy Marino said. “How can that be called criminal when we’re helping people.

“We’re not criminals,” Kim Alvaredo said. “ We didn’t come here for trouble. We came here to work to make a better future.”

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