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Teens Wore Quinceañera Dresses To Protest Texas' Immigration Law

The best dressed protesters you've ever seen.

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A group of 15 teenage girls dressed in quinceañera dresses protested outside the Texas capitol building on Wednesday to show their frustration at a new state bill they say is anti-Latino.

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The new law, known as SB-4, would significantly expands the circumstances under which people can be questioned about their legal residency status and is being challenged in federal court. Proponents say the bill just gives local jurisdictions more authority to enforce laws already on the books, but critics say it unfairly targets Latinos.

"It discriminates against people for being brown," Magdalena Juarez, a 17-year-old who appeared in her red quinceañera gown at the protest, told BuzzFeed News. Her parents are from Mexico.

"It’s hard because a lot of the people are going to be affected; a lot of us are going to be suffering," Magdalena said.

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As a Latino born in the US, Magdalena said she feels motivated to speak up for undocumented people who fear drawing attention to themselves.

"People are going to begin living in fear and they’ll be afraid to go to the grocery story in fear of getting pulled over, they'll be constantly looking over their shoulder and be afraid to contact the police in general for fear they’re going to be asked for their documentation," she said.

SB-4 also bans "sanctuary" cities, or jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials. Among them is the city of Austin.

Jolt, an organization which focuses on Latino issues in Texas, organized the protest they called Quineceañera in the Capitol.

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They chose the cultural symbol of the quinceañera because it's the time in a girl's life when she traditionally becomes a woman and starts taking responsibility for her community.

Emelyn Macias, 16, who had never been to a political demonstration, spoke at the protest wearing the mint green dress she'd last worn it at her December 2015 quinceañera, with over 400 guests.

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"The reason I speak up is I see that many people are scared to talk about certain topics like this. They are intimidated by the fact that, 'Oh, what if I’m asked for papers?' They’re afraid to speak up for their rights," said Emelyn, whose parents are from Mexico.

Emelyn said she's also upset that SB-4 will affect people she cares about who are undocumented. "It’s targeting so many people, it’s making it look as if they're criminals," she said.

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"It shouldn't be done, because it’s racist", added Emelyn, who will be starting her junior year in high school.

The quinceañera, held on a girl's 15th birthday, is also a time to celebrate while wearing an excellent huge gown – which was a great way to grab attention in a protest.

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"We were in the capitol and its a very formal place, very suit-and-tie, formal in general. All our dresses were bright colors and glitter and big, it caught the attention of lot of people at the capitol," Magdalena said.

The girls danced outside the state capitol to "Somos Mas Americanos" by Los Tigres del Norte and "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)" from The Hamilton Mixtape.

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Magdalena noted that one lyric in the Hamilton track really resonated for her – "Peter Piper claimed he picked them, he just underpaid Pablo".

"It just showed that a lot of the time we’re willing to take very low paying jobs – 17 cents a barrel, working in the sun," she said. "We don't get credit for the work that we do and we work hard and that especially being undocumented you’re too afraid to speak up. If you do speak up about the low wages, they will fire you, knowing there are many other people that are willing to do it."

After the dances, the girls tried to speak with legislators and the governor, but were told they were all in meetings and unavailable.

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They gave flowers to state senators who voted against the SB-4, to thank them, and passed along a copy of the poem that appears next to the Statue of Liberty – "give me your tired, your poor" — to those legislators that voted in favor of the bill.

At the end of the day, though, the dresses were a little hard to protest in, Magdalena said.

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"Because we were walking around everywhere, of course you step on them and you fall and you’re not used to being in this giant thing that gets in your way constantly," she said.

"To us it was important, because we are the future generation and we are the people that will be the next senators and will be the next office holders," said Magdalena, who starts her senior year of high school after summer vacation.

Amber Jamieson is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Amber Jamieson at amber.jamieson@buzzfeed.com.

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