Haltom High students walk out of class to protest Arizona immigration law

HALTOM CITY -- A small group of students walked out of classes at Haltom High School on Wednesday morning, marching for nearly three hours to protest the Arizona immigration law.

In a symbolic move, the students planned the walkout on Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates Mexico's victory over the French on May 5, 1862.

"We're protesting the Arizona law because we don't want it in Texas," said Erick Sanchez, 17, a junior. "I want people to know that students are aware of what's going on in society and we don't appreciate what's happening with the law."

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation's toughest immigration measure into law April 23. It aims to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.

At least two Republican Texas lawmakers say they plan to introduce similar bills during the next legislative session.

Nearly 100 Haltom High students planned to participate in the march, but many were apparently turned back as they tried to leave campus shortly before 9:30 a.m., said Candy Delgado, 17, a sophomore.

The 19 teens who did participate marched down Haltom Road to Northeast 28th Street, then to Beach Street. Boys and girls carried protest signs, one of which read, "No Arizona immigration law in Texas."

Others were holding Mexican, Honduran, American and Texas flags. A few carried gallon jugs of water.

At one intersection, motorists generally gave the teens yells of support and thumbs up as they drove past.

Earlier, the students said, some passers-by yelled at them to go back to school and used rude gestures.

The group had planned to march to Fort Worth City Hall but stopped at the Haltom City limits because of concerns about running afoul of truancy laws, Sanchez said.

No tickets were issued Wednesday, Haltom City police said.

Birdville school district spokesman Mark Thomas said the absences will not be excused. "We want them to be able to stand up for their cause, but it is also important for them to do this outside of the school day," Thomas said.

In 2006, hundreds of North Texas teens, including those at Haltom High, staged similar walkouts and protests against proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws that would have made it a felony to be in the country illegally.

JESSAMY BROWN, 817-390-7326