Immigrant allies rallying in nationwide day of action

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

Nationwide rallies in support of immigrant rights will be staged in more than 20 states Jan. 14 in a show of resistance against President-elect Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric about Mexicans, Latin Americans, Muslims and others.

The event’s organizers describe the rallies — set to take place a week before Trump assumes office — as “a mass mobilization of allies set to build community, celebrate our immigrant heritage and defiantly pledge to protect immigrants, Muslims and refugees from hateful attacks and policies.”

In Wisconsin, an event will take place in Milwaukee, where as many as 5,000 participants are expected.

The rallies and marches were planned before Trump’s Electoral College victory, according to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee.

However, Trump’s win lent urgency to the cause, she said, noting the president-elect’s appointment of white nationalists to work in his administration.

“On Jan. 14, people from coast to coast will stand together and say that we are #HereToStay and will not be moved,” she stated in a news release announcing the local action, which involves many progressive and human rights groups.

“Jan. 14 is the inauguration of our resistance,” Neumann-Ortiz said.

Neumann-Ortiz and other immigrant-rights supporters were alarmed by Trump’s appointment of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to his “immigration policy transition team.” In 2010, Kobach helped former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer draft and enact Senate Bill 1070, considered at the time the nation’s toughest anti-immigration bill.

The state law, which deputized police to act as immigration officers, inspired similar bills by in other states.

It also prompted boycotts by groups and businesses that support human rights.

Many of the bill’s provisions were later ruled illegal.

Kobach is currently “of counsel” with the Immigration Law Reform Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In addition to fearing what Trump might do in Washington, Voces is wary of anti-immigration laws that might come up in Madison in 2017.

During Wisconsin’s last legislative session, Republicans introduced a bill to forbid municipalities from declaring themselves “sanctuary” cities — a term that applies to cities where undocumented workers are not prosecuted.

After demonstrations against the proposal, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tabled the bill, Neumann-Ortiz said.

During 2017, Voces will “work to stop any kind of effort to stigmatize and limit the ability of refugees coming into Wisconsin,” Neumann-Ortiz added.

Her group also wants to work with lawmakers to support the ability of immigrants in Wisconsin to obtain state drivers’ licenses and IDs.

Mass mobilization to protect immigrants and refugees

People participating in Milwaukee’s Jan. 14 action in support of immigrants will gather in front of the office of Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. Fifth St.

From there, demonstrators will march to the Milwaukee County Courthouse. A rally will be staged there or along the route.

Eight buses are bringing supporters from Madison and size buses will be traveling to Milwaukee from Racine.

The list of groups helping to organize the march includes United We Dream, Center for Community Change, Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Service Employees International Union, America’s Voice Education Fund, American Federation of Teachers, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood, Color of Change and National Domestic Workers Alliance.