We speak with Gustavo Jimenez, a junior at Duncanville High School who helped lead a student walk-out in Dallas last month that saw thousands of students leave classes to protest proposed anti-immigrant legislation. [includes rush transcript]
Jimenez also addressed the massive immigrant rights rally in Dallas on Sunday.
- Gustavo Jimenez, student organizer from Duncanville High School. He helped plan the student walk-out in Dallas and spoke at the rally.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re joined now by Gustavo Jimenez. He’s a junior at Duncanville High School in Texas. He helped lead a student walkout in Dallas last month that saw thousands of students leave classes to protest proposed anti-immigrant legislation. Welcome to Democracy Now!
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: Thank you for having me.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us a little bit about how you organized the student walkouts and how you got involved yourself?
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: Well, it all began on Sunday. Sunday morning, like around 9:00. I was actually on MySpace. That’s the website that was a real big help in getting the word out. And I seen a bulletin that a girl from L.A. had posted up; and it showed, you know, the march — the rally that L.A. had and the hundreds of thousands of people that showed up. And it also had some sort of a slideshow. And it showed these pictures of, you know, the rally and migrant workers and everything. And I guess that that was the main thing that kind of got my attention and said, well, if California, you know, is trying so hard and people around the U.S. is trying so hard — because you hear about the news, you know, people marching in other states — and I said, well, we should try to do something here. And she had actually posted up a national walkout for Monday the 27th.
And I guess usually when you see those type of things, you know, walkouts, nobody really does them; but on those, I guess, you know, it’s for a reason, it’s for a good cause. I decided to help out in any way that I could; and, I mean, immediately I had to call a best friend of mine, Miguel, and as soon as we called him, I mean, we spent the rest of the day just calling, texting people on their cell phones, emails, and by anywhere. We got some — I had made some fliers, and I made some that same night. And, I mean, it was just a one-day thing that we hoped to try to get as many people as we could.
AMY GOODMAN: Gustavo, why is this issue so important to you?
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: I guess it was something like, I felt like if I had to give back, because I was lucky enough where my parents were able to get amnesty in ’86 and raise me and my two sisters. And —
AMY GOODMAN: Where are your parents from?
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: My parents are from Mexico. Puebla, Mexico. And I guess I just had the feeling where I had to give back and help the people who are stuck in this unfortunate situation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when you started to contact your friends and classmates, the reaction? Were any of them saying, 'Naw, this is crazy. It will never work. What are you doing?' And how quickly did it spread?
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: It was one of those things where you get mixed opinions in. But in the end, everybody was for it. A lot of people were like, 'Well, it's too early, you know.’ People were like, 'Okay, okay. We'll do it. We’ll do it. We’ll walk out. But when?’ And I was like, "Tomorrow." And they’re like, 'Ahh, you know, I don't know if we’re going to get that many people. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get the word out.’ And it was just one of those things where I was like, 'Well, just that much —' you know, just — I was emphasizing to them, 'Well, as little time as we've got, that should, you know — You should be able to help me out more and just call anybody you know. I mean, call your whole phone book in your cell phone. Email everybody, all your contacts.’ And, I mean, it was — in the end, everybody was for it.
And actually that same night — I didn’t go to sleep like until 2:00 that night with my best friend. He was actually helping me, too. And I was talking to him over the phone when we were doing all of this, and at the end, I was like, 'Well, do you really want to do this? You know? Is anybody going to show up? I don't know if we’re going to actually do anything.’ And he goes, 'Yeah, yeah. You know, let's continue with this.’ So I was like, 'Okay, well, we'll go on with it.’
And, I mean, I had made some fliers that night. It was just — I was out like at 10:00 making fliers, and I had dropped some off with a friend of mine, La Raza in Kimball and one in Molina and different schools. And I guess it was able to spread out real quick. The main focus that we had on everything that we sent out was: as soon as you get this information and know about this, tell someone else. So, it was one of those things, like a spider web that just kept growing, a network of people that just kept telling more and more people. And I guess that’s what really helped out spreading the word in all of this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: So, when the day came — Was it Monday morning? What was the reaction in your school?
GUSTAVO JIMENEZ: Well, see, we had actually started passing fliers out, and I know that some of the administrators — I’m not sure if any had actually seen what we were passing out, but some noticed. But they really didn’t do anything, you know. And it was right after first block, I only had like a friend of five or six that were actually going to walk out with me. And I said, "Okay, well, let’s go." But I had actually passed out some fliers out before and people — word had gotten around, you know, in the morning, because I actually went to school early to try to get as many fliers as I could and tell as many people about the walkout.
And as we were walking out, I mean, just the group kept getting larger and larger, and we just — by the time we head out, we had like around fifty and just a line. We had actually had to leave some in the parking lot, because not everybody had a car, you know; and we had to come back for them later when we got — to when we got the other people to the park, we had to come back for them. And as soon as we left the school, and as soon as — because I told everybody to get there around 10:20, 10:15. And as soon as we left the school, I mean, my phone was just ringing all day, of people saying, you know, ’We’re on our way. Where are you? We’re at the park. The police are here. This is going to be big.’ You know, and all of that was just more building more and more excitement on me. And I was like, 'Whoa!' I mean, I guess we really were able to get the word out. I was surprised.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Gustavo Jimenez, who organized Duncanville High School in Dallas, Texas.