LOS ANGELES – Tens of thousands of students walked out of school in California and other states Monday, waving flags and chanting slogans in a second week of protests against legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants.
In Washington, 100 demonstrators wore handcuffs at the Capitol to protest a bill that would make it a felony to be in this country illegally and would make it crime to dispense aid to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.
Immigrant supporters also object to legislation that would also impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and would build fences along part of the U.S.-Mexican border.
More than 500,000 people gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, and tens of thousands rallied in Phoenix and Milwaukee last week.
On Monday, California's Cesar Chavez Day, more than 14,000 students marched out of 16 Los Angeles-area schools, including the San Fernando Valley and the wealthy coastal enclave of Pacific Palisades, said Monica Carazo, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles school district.
By midmorning, the protests had spread to downtown, where hundreds of students walked the streets and chanted. The boycott had the tacit approval of school officials in some of the heavily Hispanic downtown schools, where word was passed through hall posters and public address systems.
In some areas, teachers and administrators walked with students "as a safety measure," Carazo said.
In Washington, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that clears the way for millions of undocumented workers to seek U.S. citizenship without having to first leave the country.
The committee also voted to strip out proposed criminal penalties for residents found to be in this country illegally, clearing the way for the full Senate to begin debate Tuesday.
In Los Angeles, more than 1,000 students encircled City Hall and some met with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his office.
"We've been here for many years. We work hard. We contribute to the economy of the U.S.," said Belmont High School student Fermin Vasquez, 18.
A few schools chose to bar their doors to prevent walkouts. Officials at Huntington Park High School locked the gates after classes started, but the students climbed over a chain-link fence and joined marchers in their heavily immigrant community.
Police went on a citywide alert, but most protests were peaceful.
Students threw bottles and rocks in Riverside, and more than a dozen arrests were made in Escondito in San Diego County, authorities said.
Hundreds of teenagers also walked out of several high schools in Dallas and headed for a rally at a park, some carrying Mexican flags and others posters calling for Congress to recognize immigrant rights.
In Detroit, protesters waving Mexican flags marched from the southwest side of the city where many Hispanics live toward a federal building downtown.
"We are illegal immigrants if you trace our heritage all the way back, but we are here and we are working and we are living the American dream," said Janet Padron, a 22-year-old Allen Park resident.
"Do you see the community?" Padron asked, pointing to the thousands of people around her. "Do you see how many people didn't go to work today?"