Immigration Issues, Voting Rights Draw Thousands To Milwaukee May Day March

Several thousand people converged in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood in front of the Voces de la Frontera office for the annual May Day march and rally. Activists marched a few miles from Walker’s Point through downtown Milwaukee to Veteran’s Park on the lake front.

The event was organized by Voces De La Frontera, an immigrant rights organization and allies from around Milwaukee. This year’s march centered around the issues of deportation, voting rights, funding for education and health care and restoration of in state tuition and drivers licenses for immigrants.

Wisconsin has been a whirlwind of political activity and protests since Governor Scott Walker was elected, now facing a historic recall. A piece of legislation that did not receive attention was a copy cat bill of Arizona’s SB 1070 introduced in the 2011 state legislative session. The bill did not make it out of committee, likely resulting from the attention to the mass protests that labor held throughout the session.

Deportations, voter suppression important issues

Above: May Day parade in Milwaukee
Below: Organizer Christine Normann-Ortiz talks about the issues workers, and particularly immigrant workers, are facing today in the US.

Deportations have been heightened under the Obama administration, leaving many families separated. Nearly 400,000 people have been deported every year since Obama took office in 2008.

The Wisconsin legislature recently passed a Voter photo ID law, requiring people to bring a state issued picture ID to vote. This law is criticized as a mechanism to disenfranchise communities of color. The law has not taken effect, as it was challenged as unconstitutional in two separate law suits filed by the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. The law currently is waiting to be reviewed by the Wisconsin appeals court.

In state tuition for undocumented students was eliminated in 2011 as part of the Walker administration’s controversial budget. In state tuition had only been in place in Wisconsin since 2009. The budget also cut about $1.6 billion from K-12 public schools, the University of Wisconsin system and the technical colleges. A voucher program was also expanded under the budget, which effectively takes away funding from public schools to give students scholarships to attend private (often religious) schools. Previously this program had only been in place in Milwaukee, but was extended to Racine public schools as well as an income limit being lifted for students applying. The program was initially set up for low income students to be able to attend private schools, though lifting the cap on income for students opens the program to students of any income level.

Several speakers attended the rally at Veterans Park including Christine Neumann-Ortiz (Voces de la Frontera), Luis Gutierrez (Congressman, IL), Gwen Moore (Congresswoman, WI) and student activists.

Tracey Pollock

Tracey Pollock, a native of River Falls, Wis., studied journalism at UW-River Falls and finished her education at UW-Milwaukee with a focus in sociology. She is interested in covering social justice issues and shedding light on issues in a way that corporate media will not undertake. Pollock lives in Milwaukee, where generations of her family have resided. She enjoys the local music scene, bicycling and camping.

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