Milwaukee staged a 'Day Without Latinos.' Here's what that looked like.
Calling for an end to deportation raids, Wisconsinites gathered for a 'Day Without Latinos.'
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained and deported Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in early February, it became clear that President Trump was taking a no-holds-barred approach to immigration.
Ripped from her family, from her two teenage children, Garcia de Rayos was just one of more than 680 undocumented immigrants detained by ICE around the country in the past week. It quickly became clear that Trump's hardline stance on undocumented immigrants was more than just tough talk, leaving many of the more than 11 million undocumented population feeling rightfully nervous that their city may soon be next.
Recently, outspoken Trump supporter and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke indicated plans to enroll his officers in the Department of Homeland Security's 287(g) program, allowing local law enforcement to act alongside ICE in detaining undocumented immigrants. Soon after, Wisconsin immigration activists began to mobilize in response.
On Monday, Feb. 13, thousands of Latinos, immigrants, and allies flooded the streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in protest of Trump and Clarke.
Calling it a "Day Without Latinxs, Immigrants, and Refugees," civil and workers' rights group Voces de la Frontera organized a single-day strike. Immigrants, refugees, and Latino workers from around the state took the day off work and gathered for a march on the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
The goal of the strike is to use collective economic power — making their absence from the workforce felt — in a statement about how integral immigrants are to the fabric of America.
"We arrived here from more than 25 cities in Wisconsin to show Trump and his lapdog Sheriff Clarke that the people of Milwaukee, the people of Wisconsin, and this whole country reject the 287g program, which is part of this mass deportation plan," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera in a statement.
"Today, we organized a Day Without Latinxs, Immigrants, and Refugees to use our economic power — through work stoppages, small business closures and our consumer boycotts, to defend our families and communities."
There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and they actually help the economy, rather than hurt it.
A 2016 analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that undocumented immigrants contribute roughly $11.6 billion a year in taxes.
During his campaign, President Trump tried to create the impression that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the country's resources. That's simply not an accurate portrayal of their contribution to America's economy.
Undocumented immigrants pay into systems, such as Social Security, though they'll never collect on it.
Another common thread during Trump's campaign and in the early weeks of his presidency is a supposed connection between undocumented immigrants and crime. In reality, undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens.
Trump opened his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. At the Republican National Convention last July, Trump invited families of people murdered by undocumented immigrants to speak. Last month, he announced plans to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. All of this gives the impression that undocumented immigrants are dangerous.
Ripping people away from their families and sending them back to countries where they haven't lived in years — decades even — isn't going to make America great.
Whether they're citizens or not, the people who live here, who work here, who love here — they're Americans. And that's what the strike and the #DayWithoutLatinos was all about. From an economic point of view, it's better to have a "Day Without Latinos" than a country without Latinos. They're a part of the American story, no matter how they came here or whether they have the right kind of identification. We need to stand up in support of our fellow Americans.
People are making their voices heard. On Feb. 13, it was in Milwaukee. Wherever it's needed next, let's commit to standing on the right side of history.
You can learn more about Voces de la Frontera's work at its website.