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Johnston County Students Walk Out Of School To Protest U.S. Immigration Bill

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — About 50 students, mostly Hispanic, staged a protest Wednesday in response to an immigration bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate.

The Smithfield-Selma High School students marched down U.S. Highway 301, despite warnings from school officials that they risked suspension for missing school. Family members and observers joined the group during the march, which lasted several hours.

Marchers waved signs -- some saying they were the voice for their parents -- protesting

House Bill 4437

, passed by the House of Representatives in December.

"My mom came here when she was 12, and has worked all of her life," said student Luli Ayala. "She supported six kids in total. My dad passed away, and she is still supporting us."

The protest, along with others across the nation involving thousands of students, comes as the U.S. Senate debates the measure, which would make illegal immigration a felony.

There are about 400,000 illegal immigrants in North Carolina, some of whom are the parents involved in Wednesday's protest.

In a written statement released Wednesday afternoon, school Principal Jake Jacobs said the students involved in the walkout could face disciplinary action

"While we acknowledge the freedoms of speech and expression, our priority is to have our students present and safe at school during school hours," Jacobs said. "The consequences of disrupting school and the failure to follow directives will be established for each student on an individual basis."

School officials have contacted the parents of the students to let them know about the possible penalties.


Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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