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Scores of Students Participate in Walkouts to Support Immigrants

It's been a year since students and immigrant activists took to the streets by the thousands in support of immigrants. Today, the numbers were not nearly what they were last May, but scores of San Die

It's been a year since students and immigrant activists took to the streets by the thousands in support of immigrants. Today, the numbers were not nearly what they were last May, but scores of San Diego students left their schools this morning to rally for immigrant rights. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma has more.

With school still in session, more than 100 students -- some wrapped in Mexican flags -- leaped over school walls or simply walked off campus to gather at Chicano Park in south San Diego this morning.

17-year-old Jose Guerrerro came to the park, he says, to be an advocate for his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Some of them are here illegally. All of them, Guerrero said, work hard.

Guerrero : Without our people working in the fields. Without people working in the hotels, the jobs that nobody wants. They have to do them because they want to support their families. That's the thing, whether they're documented or undocumented. They're making the U.S. economy big.

Guerrero is a senior at Garfield High School in San Diego.

Guerrero : Did you ditch school to be here? Well, where are the cops at? Huh, huh, yeah, yeah.

Guerrero says there is a climate of fear among immigrant children that their parents or siblings might be deported if immigration enforcement is stepped up.

Guerrero : What scares people the most is that families are going to be ripped apart, kids especially. That's what I'm scared about. That's not good for any people, Mexican, undocumented or not. That's not good.

News of immigration sweeps and the potential of being separated from his parents are what 13-year-old Jesus Santos says compelled him to hop the fence this morning at Wilson Junior High School to the rally at Chicano Park.

Santos : I think it's not right because if they're already here, why are they going to get them? They already started a family. They already have their house and everything so what's the point for them to be taken away?

Some students were less articulate and couldn't explain why they had ditched school to be at the rally. But Christian Ramirez of the immigrant rights group The American Friends Services Committee says the vast majority of Latino youths have been exposed to the immigration discussion.

Ramirez : This is a common debate at the kitchen table, in the living room of their families. Many of these kids have mixed immigration status in their family nucleus so they all know this is an issue that might impact their parents, or this is an issue that is commonly talked about in migrant communities all across this country.

Ramirez says that while he respects that students' deep concern for immigrant rights prompted them to skip school and join the protest, he encouraged students to return to classes today.

The student turnout was down dramatically from last year. This year, San Diego school police beefed up their presence and threatened to arrest students who walked out.  Schools held meetings and forums to discuss immigration. Some schools were also in the middle of taking the California Standards tests. All of those factors combined reduced the number of students who walked out to join the protests.