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COURTESY PHOTO - Forest Grove High School student Moises Orozco snapped a photo of the Build a Wall banner just before students Ana Lopez Veronica Guerrero tore it down. The photo circulated through social media and sparked a student walkout the next day to protest not just the banner but what many students describe as a long string of harassment and discrimination against all kinds of minorities at the school.The Forest Grove High School walkout was sparked by the “Build a Wall” banner that hung briefly from a walkway above the school cafeteria during the lunch hour Wednesday, May 18.

FGHS junior Sergio Bucio saw the sign go up and says he immediately walked over to Dean of Students Dwight Jensen to point out the sign and ask if it was OK for it to hang there.

“He said, ‘Absolutely not,” remembers Bucio, who noticed Principal Karen O’Neill walking toward them at the same time.

O’Neill asked, “What’s going on?” said Bucio. “I said, ‘Look up there.’ She was like ‘Oh, wow.’ She was really astonished and upset.”

Before either of the administrators could take the sign down, Bucio said, two students — Ana Lopez and Veronica Guerrero — had reached it, torn it down and thrown it on the floor.

“Everybody cheered,” said Bucio, who called the sign “completely racist and disrespectful because it’s targeting a certain group of people.” He said wall supporters “don’t have empathy for what these people are coming here for.”

The “Build a Wall” slogan refers to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s vow to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border in order to stop immigrants from entering the country illegally.

“So I have an honest question,” Stacey Streit Siemiller wrote in a comment thread responding to a News-Times Facebook post on the incident. “What does putting up a wall have to do with racism? From what I understand, the intent is to more easily deal with illegal activity crossing borders (drugs, sex trafficking, weapons, criminals, etc.).”

“Building a wall should not be scary to any student. It should bring peace. Security for our country,” wrote Shelley Mickel, another Facebook commenter. “If you have come to this country illegally (i.e. against the law) then you should not be here. Period. Go home, follow the rules, and then come to America. It not a racial thing — AT ALL. I would say the same thing to my family in Northern Ireland (btw, they are all white in skin color).”

But the slogan’s message of rejection hangs over many Latinos who are full-fledged American citizens, said Eddie Bolanos, an office administrator at Centro Cultural in Cornelius.

That’s partly because Latinos who have crossed the border illegally don’t usually announce that for fear of deportation, Bolanos said. And that means many Latino Americans who were born here or otherwise became legal citizens sense wall supporters assume — or at least wonder — if they, too, are here illegally, thus veiwing all Latinos with suspicion.

In addition, many “legal” Latino Americans have parents or grandparents or others in their family who came to the U.S. illegally and while many of those have since gained legal residency through amnesty programs, the criticism of “illegals” still hangs over their loved ones, Bolanos said.

For those students who do not have legal documents, coming to the U.S. was probably not their choice, but their parents’ choice — made when they were still young children, Bolanos said. “They didn’t choose to come here (but) they can’t go back because this is their home.”

Bucio said American Latinos are also sensitive to Trump comments he feels have blatantly stereotyped Mexicans.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best,” Trump said at the high-profile rally where he announced his presidential campaign. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Bucio feels the “good people” reference tacked onto the end of Trump’s comments was overshadowed by his negative descriptions.

When asked later by CNN’s Jake Tapper to clarify those comments, Trump said:

“I like Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad.

“You have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans — I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists, and they’re coming into this country.”

That kind of harsh rhetoric is hurtful, Bucio said: “I understand illegal immigration might be an issue but you could advocate for it in a more respectful way.”

And even if a wall isn’t built, he said, the “Build a Wall” attitude “might mean ‘Deport all illegal immigrants,’” he said.

Bucio said he was born in the U.S. so is a legal American citizen who doesn’t have to fear deportation. “It’s not me but it’s my parents, it’s family, it’s friends. I have people who go through fear that ... we might be torn apart.”

Facebook commenter Mike Kincaid (not the Michael Kinkade who leads Forest Grove Fire & Rescue) called the slogan a “dog whistle,” meaning that while it ostensibly refers to the legitimate debate over illegal immigration, it carries a hidden anti-Latino message understood by both the people who say it and the Latinos who feel targeted by it.

The context of the message makes all the difference, he wrote: “If I were to say: hey, im going to build a wall this weekend, you would probably think im doing something with my yard BUT if I say ‘build a wall’ at a place of education, at a school that has a high population of mexicans, during a political point of time where the republican front runner is making racist comments, including his patented ‘build a wall,’ then there is simply only one interpretation.”

For more reaction to the “Build a Wall” banner, see Facebook comments on page A9.

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