Students walk out of class in protest of SB4 at Fort Worth high school

The students began the protest after first period, at about 9:45 a.m. Friday.
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The students began the protest after first period, at about 9:45 a.m. Friday.
By

Fort Worth

Fort Worth high school students walk out in protest of SB4

By Matthew Martinez And Diane Smith

mmartinez@star-telegram.com

dianesmith@star-telegram.com

September 01, 2017 09:52 AM

FORT WORTH

Alma Hernandez is a junior at South Hills High School who lives with her mother, who works two jobs, sometimes from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., while her father lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico.

He was deported for being in the U.S. illegally when Hernandez, 17, was four. Her mother is undocumented as well.

It was a story told over and over again Friday by high school students at Little People Park during a protest of Texas’ “Sanctuary Cities” law organized by students at South Hills.

“I wanted to let people know that behind the people they deport, there are real people. We’re not just ‘illegals,’ ” Hernandez said. “They have families, and we have real lives.

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“I know it’s not certain that people in power are going to see a protest and stop the law. But what we’re trying to do is reach out, out of common humanity, and see if we can get more people to recognize that we’re not just ‘illegals’ who are here to commit crime.”

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting enforcement of key provisions of Senate Bill 4 on Wednesday, a decision Gov. Greg Abbott quickly pledged to appeal.

The “show me your papers” provision, which allows police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain, was not among those blocked by Garcia’s injunction.

For the students who walked out Friday after first period, the fight over the law they perceive as racist has just begun. Before the injunction, the law was scheduled to go into effect Friday.

“[The injunction] doesn’t mean this issue is over at all. It’s still just the beginning,” said South Hills sophomore Stephanie, who asked to be identified by first name only, but was one of 10 core organizers of Friday’s walkout. “We all have friends and family who are not here legally. The fact that we, as high school students, are doing this will hopefully get some people’s attention.

“Our parents getting deported, our friends getting deported, that affects our education. That shouldn’t be something we have to worry about.”

More than 150 South Hills students walked out Friday, carrying signs that read “SB4 is racist” and “we are not criminals.”

This photo was circulated among students of South hills and Southwest High Schools before Friday’s walkout.
Facebook photo

A poster distributed on Facebook also called for a similar walkout at Southwest High School, but by 11 p.m. only one student had walked out.

Martha Garza,16, a junior at Southwest, said students with immigrant loved ones wanted to take a stand against SB4.

“In our lives, we have very important people ... It’s going to affect them.”

“It is going to affect my life,” said Garza, who despite being born in the United States, has friends and family who are worried about their futures. She said immigrants worry about returning to Mexico and Venezuela because of the lack of economic opportunity and political unrest.

Both schools are in the Fort Worth school district. Four students from Paschal High School also joined.

Organizers of the protest didn’t always have strict control over the messages that individual speakers shouted into the microphone at the park as school and district officials, as well as about eight Fort Worth police officers, looked on. One speaker even went as far as advocating for decreasing penalties for drinking and driving before the microphone was taken away from him.

District officials estimated that there were about 70 students at the park at about 1:30 p.m. It is unclear if that number included “new students who joined after the original ‘walk-out’ or part of the original group or a mix thereof,” said district spokesman Clint Bond. Students will be assessed an unexcused absence, he said.

Earlier in the day, school district officials heard reports that students planned a walkout, Bond said.

“We will advise students that the safest, best place for them to be is in the classroom. But, we are prepared to escort them with school and district staff in an effort to keep them as safe as possible,” district spokesman Clint Bond said before the walkout began.

Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667, @MCTinez817

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1