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Mobilizing to stop anti-immigrant, Arizona-type legislation in Wisconsin

By Valeria Gonzalez |
March 30, 2011
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Milwaukee, WI - Over 1,000 community members, students and workers gathered on March 20 for an emergency meeting organized by Voces de la Frontera to discuss a new Arizona SB1070 style-law that will soon be introduced in Wisconsin by Republican Representative Don Pridemore.

Participants took the opportunity to discuss the legislation, ask questions and plan actions to protest immediately upon its introduction. The great turnout to this meeting proves the dedication that this community has for its rights. This is not the first time Voces de la Frontera has brought together Milwaukee residents to discuss such important legislation. Joseph Oulahan, facilitator for the meeting and board member of Voces de la Frontera said, “We’re lucky to have Voces de la Frontera because other states where this has been happening don’t have the same support.”

Among many of the problems with this legislation, as with Arizona’s SB1070, is that it would promote discrimination by requiring that everyone carry identification that proves their legal status in the United States. People without the proper documents would risk being arrested, sent to jail and deported. Of course, this new law would disproportionately Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans, who would be stopped and questioned more frequently. The proposal would send Wisconsin back to the era before the civil rights movement.

The impact of such a law would severely impact the economy in Wisconsin. Contrary to what Governor Scott Walker’s campaign said, he is not ‘creating jobs’ but eliminating thousands of them. If all undocumented workers left Wisconsin, the state would lose $2.6 billion in economic activity and a total of $1.2 billion in state product and about 14,579 workers. Immigrant workers make up over 40% of workers on dairy farms (around 5,316 workers). Moreover, the anti-immigrant climate would cause Latinos - documented or not - to leave the state, causing a loss of taxes, businesses to close, the abandonment of homes and declining home values ​​when more people leave their neighborhoods.

For all those families and activists present, being in a room full of other people willing to fight against an unjust law was not just a fight for social justice, but a fight for many of our close friends and relatives. As tough as this struggle appeared in front of us, many encouraging and powerful words were given from the audience. “Together, with or without papers, we make this country!” said a community member.

The meeting ended with high energy with all those present chanting: “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! Sí se puede!” [The people united, will never be defeated! Yes we can!]

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