Last Monday was May Day, International Workers Day, and nationally, organizations that are part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement network held marches and rallies to pressure the Biden administration to deliver on promises to roll back anti-immigrant policies from past administrations and pass long-overdue protections for immigrants through executive action.
In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee-based immigrant rights organization Voces de la Frontera joined with youth members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle, organized labor, and community members for two days of action, in Milwaukee on Monday the 1st and in Madison on Tuesday the 2nd, with a focus on the statewide campaign to restore driver licenses and tuition equity, both of which were included as items in the proposed state budget of Governor Tony Evers.
On May Day, nearly a thousand people braved sleet and bitter cold to gather on Fifth Street in Milwaukee, ready to march. Among the speakers was Michael Rosen, of Milwaukee Area Technical College and the American Federation of Teachers.
Ryan, who works at Saint Francis Hospital inMilwaukee, and is part of a community and worker coalition that is fighting reduction in services there, addressed the crowd.
The crowd marched through the streets of Milwaukee to Zeidler Union Square park. Nancy Ordonez, a ninth grader and member of Raza United at Madison’s East High School, spioke in Milwaukee and was also ready to march in Madison on the following day.
And march the next day they did, with hundreds of students from East, West, and Lafollette High Schools in Madison joining at East High School and heading the over two-mile trek down Washington Avenue to the capitol building.
Mike Jones, President of Madison Teachers Incorporated, or MTI, marched the length of the route with the students. Jones explained why he was there representing teachers and their union.
MTI teachers see the effects of this discrimination on their students every day, Jones explains.
As the marchers gathered on the capitol steps, they were joined by a contingent of UW students who had marched from the other direction, and the group entered the building.
As students and others rallies and spoke in the rotunda, demanding their rights, the Republican-dominated Joint Finance Committee was meeting above them, on the fourth floor of the capitol, and voted to slash not only the drivers license and tuition equity provisions, but a total of 545 items in the Evers-proposed budget, gutting the governor’s suggested program.
Activists have pledged to carry on the fight. A May 4th statement from Voces de la Frontera stated in part, “The Joint Finance Committee’s decision to strip 545 provisions from the Wisconsin state budget, including restoring access to drivers licenses and in-state tuition for immigrants, is shameful.
Voces de la Frontera will continue to move forward with engaging Latinx and multiracial youth statewide.” Some publicly-available online audio from the Monday march was used with the permission of Voces de la Frontera, and is available in full on the VDLF Facebook page. The Tuesday march and the budget fight were covered on the WORT 6 O’Clock News, and are available on the WORT archives at wortfm.org. For Labor Radio, I’m Greg Geboski.