More than 50 people attended a rally in front of the Mitchell Park Domes on the South side of Milwaukee Tuesday to send off immigrant activists and allies for a Wednesday march for immigration reform in Washington D.C.. They were part of a total of 200 families, some from each congressional district in Wisconsin, traveling to Washington to march in favor of ending abuse of immigrant workers and a direct path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Simultaneous rallies were held around Wisconsin to send off activists on the long bus ride to Washington. Activists planned to conduct a phone bank on the ride, encouraging Wisconsin voters to contact their Congress members to act on meaningful immigration reform. Once in D.C, activists planned to speak with their elected officials and meet with thousands of activists from around the country to march for justice for undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant rights activists were joined by Alderman Jose Perez, members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 and faith leaders who blessed the buses before they left.
Two young women with Youth Empowered in the Struggle, a youth branch of the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, told their stories of how a broken immigration system has impacted their families.
“Every night I cry and I ask myself if he is doing OK,” Jennifer Nava said of her brother, who was recently deported and the devastating impact it has had on her family.
Deportations under the Obama administration have increased with many families being separated, often with no warning. Though a recent measure allowing deferred action for some youths — without a threat of deportation — was enacted, activists do not believe this goes far enough for the millions of undocumented adults who are still subject to deportation.
A partnership was formed in the summer of 2012 between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI, called the Secure Communities Program, to share information between agencies. When someone is detained by ICE agents, their fingerprints are automatically sent to the FBI.
Immigration raids occur in cities across the US, with ICE going to homes of people they suspect may be undocumented. Traffic stops also are a major source of detainment, especially in states like Arizona and Georgia, where police are able to stop and check the immigration status of anyone they believe may be undocumented.
A bill allowing “Arizona style immigration reform” was introduced in the Wisconsin legislature in 2011, but did not pass. Governor Scott Walker recently shied away from supporting this type of legislation, saying it would be a distraction from the other policies his administration is pushing this legislative session.
Erika Sanchez, an undocumented DREAMER activist, says she worries about how she will pay for college tuition because of her immigration status, having recently graduated high school. She also worries about whether she will come home to find that her parents have been detained or deported. Her family came to Milwaukee because of economic hardship that they had faced in Mexico when she was eight years old.
Congress has still not passed the DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001. The act would allow a six-year path to citizenship for undocumented youth who complete a two- or four-year college degree. Undocumented youth are also unable to receive in-state college tuition.