Sophie Bolich

May Day Activists Call For Immigration Reform

Activists call for restoring driver’s licenses, in-state tuition for immigrants.

By - May 1st, 2023 04:43 pm
Activists march on May Day in support of immigrant rights. Photo taken May 1, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Activists march on May Day in support of immigrant rights. Photo taken May 1, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

More than 1,500 activists from across the state gathered in Walker’s Point Monday morning to march in support of immigration reform and student rights.

This year’s event marks a continuation of a state-wide effort to restore drivers licenses to undocumented Wisconsin residents and provide in-state tuition to undocumented students. Activists also used the platform to raise awareness of the student-led effort to improve the quality of Milwaukee Public School lunches.

Demonstrations also took place in Madison.

Organizers from immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera spearheaded the day of action on collaboration with community members and allied groups including Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The Milwaukee march takes place annually on May 1, or May Day.

The group also demanded action from local and national government, calling for Congress to approve immigration reform and for President Joe Biden to use his executive power to end the 287(g) agreement and extend temporary protected status for undocumented immigrants.

“We are here to send a message to all those in government and corporate America that we demand respect,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “We’re here to tell you that we will not stop fighting until we win.”

The march began in front of the Voces de la Frontera Milwaukee office, 1027 S. 5th St. Participants traveled north, over the 6th Street bridge to W. Michigan Street, then gathered at Zeidler Union Square for a series of speeches and a community celebration.

Israel Peña, an immigrant and essential worker, addressed the crowd at Zeidler Union Square.

“I’m here to ask on behalf of all immigrants in Wisconsin that they restore drivers licenses back to us, because this is a need for everybody,” he said. “We are the workforce, we are a part of the economy in this country. We need drivers licenses so that we can get to work, go to the grocery store and take our kids to school — we just want a dignified life, and I think we deserve that.”

Another speaker, Hermila, immigrated to the United States from Mexico, and is now on the verge of receiving her citizenship. “When I came to the U.S., I started from the very bottom,” said Hermila, who did not share her last name. “Thanks to Voces, I am just waiting to take the oath to become a newly naturalized U.S. citizen and one more voter in the United States.”

“I’m here to tell you that for those of us that are now accomplishing our goals, we have to think of the others that are coming behind us. We can’t forget them.”

Following the conclusion of the march, activists delivered a box filled with postcards to Milwaukee Central DMV, 2701 S. Chase Ave. The cards, which were collected throughout the march, voice support for restoring drivers licenses for all.

Students Speak

A group of Wisconsin students were in attendance to advocate for improved school lunches and tuition equity for students, regardless of their immigration status.

The group spoke on behalf of students throughout Wisconsin who are fighting for in-state tuition rates for DACA recipients and undocumented students who are currently subject to higher tuition costs and additional fees.

Students also continued the push for better public school lunches, and demanded that school provide fresh food cooked on-site, a wider variety of meals offered, religious and dietary accommodations, larger portions and higher wages for Milwaukee Public School food service workers.

The May Day demonstration is part of a multi-day strike, Días Sin Latinx e Inmigrantes. In 2022, more than 70 Milwaukee businesses closed for the day in solidarity with the movement.

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Categories: Politics, Weekly

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