Thousands March For Immigration Rights in Minnesota, Milwaukee

In Wisconsin, thousands marched in the annual May Day Parade organized by Voces de la Frontera and sponsored by a broad base of small immigrant businesses, labor unions, faith based organizations and LGBTQ groups. Marchers called for real immigration reform through a broad path to citizenship and respect for workers rights on the internationally recognized labor holiday.

People gathered at the Voces de la Frontera office in the Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee Wednesday morning at 5th and Mineral. The event was kicked off with several speakers to rally the crowd for the march for worker and immigrant rights.

Raul de la Torre spoke on behalf of the Palermo’s pizza workers’ union which has been in a labor struggle for nearly a year to have the union recognized. The ongoing campaign for union recognition has led to a mass layoff of union organizers and supporters, picket lines, a national boycott of Palermo’s pizza and escalating student protests on University of Wisconsin campuses. Monday, 12 UW-Madison students were arrested for occupying the Chancellor’s office and demanding that the school cut its campus pizza contract with Palermo’s. UW-Milwaukee students held a similar action a couple of months ago with no arrests.

Randy Terry, a recently fired employee of Palermo’s, spoke of how he was unfairly fired because he supported his fellow workers on strike and the picket line. He has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company.

Milwaukee Alderman Jose Perez spoke to the crowd in support of the Palermo’s workers struggle as well as the struggle for fair immigration reform and a broad path to citizenship. He was joined by County Supervisor Peggy Romo West and Wisconsin State assembly members Mandela Barnes, Daniel Riemer, Latonya Johnson, Evan Goyke and John Richards.

Faith leaders also gave their support to the crowd.

The march was led from Walker’s Point heading north on 5th street, crossing the 6th street bridge into downtown Milwaukee. Thousands of marchers then turned onto Wisconsin Avenue, passing the Delta Convention Center, the Federal Building and shoppers at the Grand Avenue Mall before ending the march at the Pere Marquette Park on the Milwaukee river.

The march ended with people packing the park to listen to the closing speakers.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said now is a historic time for federal immigration reform which has the real potential of leading to a path towards citizenship, including protections for workers, the LGBTQ community and women under the Violence Against Women Act.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore said she will do everything possible to make sure immigration reform passes in the House of Representatives.

Youth activists spoke of the need for undocumented students having access to in-state tuition to get a college education.

Activists pledged to continue to work tirelessly for justice and dignity for immigrant families.

— Milwaukee report by Tracey Pollock

MINNESOTA

Minnesota’s annual May Day immigration rally kicked off on Cedar Street in downtown St. Paul. Complete with Mexica dancers, singers and workers demanding a path to citizenship in Minnesota. Many have been in this country for decades and feel they deserve the chance to live here legally.

The Minnesota Senate made a historic decision just hours before marchers descended on the Capitol: A “Path to Prosperity” bill passed that would give college hopefuls a chance at getting financial aid and perhaps a better life. One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, told the crowd to keep the pressure on legislators as she and other supporters try to push the bill through to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has vowed he will sign it into law.

“I bring you fantastic news,” Pappas told the thousand-plus crowd. “The Minnesota Dream Act passed the Minnesota Senate today.” The crowd cheered and responded with chants of, “Si, Se Puede!” (loosely, “Yes, We Can!”) as she tried to finish her sentence. The bill passed the Senate by a margin of 41 to 23.

Young marchers like Julio, Jose, Eileen and Yance may one day benefit from the passage of this bill. All are in the “tween” years and came to this country as undocumented immigrants.

“I feel emotional,” said Eileen. The youngest, Julio, who is 11, said he just wants the chance to learn.

Being able to attend college as students is one thing, but being able to live in this country legally is another. Many in the crowd held signs declaring that families should be allowed to stay together and that Gov. Dayton should allow non-citizens the chance to get a driver’s license.

— St. Paul report by Allison Herrera

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