By Karen Stokes
On a sunny Monday afternoon, thousands took part in a “Day Without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees”. Organizers from Voces de la Frontera, a Hispanic community advocacy organization asked Latinos to take a day off of work and school, not make any purchases and close their businesses to march in protest of recent immigration policies.
“Today, we escalate the national and international struggle against Trump’s executive orders, which aim to expand the machinery of mass deportation and legalize discrimination based on race and religion,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera in a statement on the webpage.
According to NBC news, the march was organized after Sheriff David Clarke expressed interest to enroll his officers in the Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) program, allowing local law enforcement to act alongside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining undocumented immigrants as a part of President Donald Trump’s executive order.
A diverse collection of students, refugees, white, Muslim and Latino protesters from all over the state of Wisconsin came on buses to show support. The estimated number of attendees was approximately 20,000.
A statement from Janna Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition said, “This is not a struggle that has Muslims, immigrants and refugees on one side and everyone else on the other side. This is a struggle between people that stand for brotherhood, compassion, mercy, justice and human dignity on one side and those that stand for hatred, racism, xenophobia and injustice on the other side. Scapegoating Latinos, immigrants and refugees distracts from addressing real issues and offering real solutions. This city and this country cannot live and function without Latinos, immigrants and refugees! We are physicians, scientists and engineers, we are chefs and waiters, we are farmers and farmhands, we are business owners and domestic helpers. We give life to our city and to our country, and we are not going anywhere!”
The crowd gathered near 5th and National and marched toward the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The event began from the offices of Voces de la Frontera, through the streets of downtown Milwaukee and onto the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
Protesters were chanting “Si se puede, El pueblo unido” which translated means, Yes we can, the people united”.
The crowd convened at the steps of the courthouse, listened to music and speeches from community leaders and elected officials including County Executive Chris Abele, County Supervisor Supreme Moore-Omokunde, and State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee.
One protester who respectfully declined to give his name questioned what was Sheriff Clarke’s issue with Latinos, “I just don’t know about the way he is treating us. It seems like he is racist. I have a lot of Mexican family members here illegally and they could run the risk of being deported. Their families would be destroyed.”
Sheriff Clarke responded to the march in a statement, reading, in part: “The U.S. is a sovereign nation with borders that have to be enforced and protected. According to the U.S. Constitution, the Congress has the authority to set lawful immigration rules — not a mayor, a governor, a city council or county board.
Nobody has a right to come to the U.S. You can, however, make a request to come here through our immigration service. There must be a zero tolerance for allowing people to illegally enter this country and establish permanent residency.”
The protest was peaceful and there were no arrests.