RACINE — While most students exited Horlick High School to head home Tuesday afternoon, a few dozen stayed back to voice their support for immigration reform.

“Today I’m leaving Horlick High School because I’m going to go even higher — by going to Washington, D.C. I’ll continue to fight for myself, for my friends and for my family,” said Luis Tapia, a junior at Horlick. “We’re all going to Washington, D.C., as one.”

The students were rallying outside of Horlick, 2119 Rapids Drive, to bring attention to the issue of immigration.

Tapia, along with about 60 other people from Wisconsin, was to travel by bus Tuesday night to Washington to advocate for immigration reform and a “clean” DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children (often referred to as “Dreamers”) and protection for their families.

The students going on the trip planned the rally in front of the school Tuesday as a send-off before the long bus ride to the East Coast, where they were to join other protesters from across the country on Wednesday in the nation’s capital to lobby for passage of the DREAM Act.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason attended the rally on Tuesday and thanked the students for their activism and told them “know you’re always welcome here.”

“I hope this is what my kids want to do when they’re in high school,” Mason said. “This is about achieving the American dream. All you want to do is be here, succeed in school and achieve the American dream like every other generation of immigrants that came before.”

Horlick teacher Aaron Eick also was present and voiced his support for the action the students were taking.

“It’s very important that these kids are going to D.C. to represent us and, as a teacher, I’m very proud to say that we stand with these children,” Eick said.

‘I want to show others how to be a leader’

Valeria Ruiz, organizer with Youth Empowered in the Struggle and a Horlick alum, has been to the nation’s capital “more than six times” to participate in protests for immigration reform.

When Ruiz was in high school she was active in the same cause.

“Now five, 10 years later, I’m an organizer and I’m again taking a delegation of not only (House Speaker) Paul Ryan constituents but also Dreamers and undocumented folks and their parents to D.C. to advocate for the same thing we were advocating for a long time ago,” Ruiz said.

Although the students will be missing a few days of school, Ruiz said “they’re not going on vacation.”

“They’re going for a reason … they’ll get the experience of people power, of community organization,” Ruiz said. “I’ve already gone through this leadership (experience) and I want to show others how to be a leader and develop them into strong leaders.”

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Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.