On Oct. 11, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, hundreds of people took to the streets of Milwaukee to demand citizenship for all. The event, Dia Sin Latinxs e Immigrantes, was co-hosted by Voces de la Frontera — Wisconsin’s largest immigrants rights advocate non-profit — and Reshaping Madison Together, and supported by many different groups including PSL Milwaukee.
The event highlighted the struggles undocumented people face in Wisconsin. Because they were not citizens, the state provided no support to undocumented families or workers laid off due to the pandemic. Many undocumented workers had little choice but to work jobs at high risk to their health. Meat packing plants employ many undocumented workers in the state. JBS Packerland and American Food Groups in Green Bay had more than 658 COVID cases combined, including four deaths at JBS, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA Today.
Former Governor Scott Walker’s administration ruled that only citizens could obtain a driver’s license, leaving undocumented workers who needed to drive to go to work or shop, or go to the hospital vulnerable to the abuses of the racist Milwaukee police department.
These are just some examples of the exploitation undocumented people face because they do not have full citizenship rights.
The Oct. 11 action featured a rally with many powerful speeches from undocumented people, young students and heads of household on their struggles and the necessity of citizenship for equal access to opportunity. It was followed by a march to the Milwaukee Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Spirits were high, as people chanted ‘’el pueblo unido jamás será vencido’’ and carried banners and signs demanding citizenship for all.
As the march neared the 6th St. bridge over the Menomonee River, it began to rain, but the people kept marching and chanting undeterred. When the march reached the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, everyone gathered to listen to other speakers, including Voces De La Frontera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz who passionately and rightfully demanded that citizenship be expanded to all who live on U.S. soil.
Liberation News interviewed Anna Dvorak, a staff member of Voces De La Frontera. She addressed the Senate Parliamentarian’s recent elimination of major immigration reforms from the Biden administration’s $3 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Dvorak advocated continued pressure on politicians to keep the immigration provisions in the bill. “We are here because Democrats have the power to pass citizenship for all, and the time is now.” She explained that the role of the Parliamentarian is to decide whether or not provisions in a budget are reconciliations, as a part of the Byrd Rule, and the Parlimantarian’s decision on immigration did not fall within this criteria. When asked what those who support citizenship can do, she responded, “You can call your elected Democratic officials and tell them to keep ‘citizenship for all’ in the reconciliation bill.”
As an immigrant myself, living here for 20 years, I have heard so many different politicians promise immigration for all, only to forget about it as soon as they are elected. Even today, those same liberals who cried out about children in cages, family separation, and the inhumane conditions of their detention when Trump was in office, have fallen silent as the Biden administration continues the same inhumane, white supremacist policies of the Trump administration. Under Biden’s Homeland Security head Alejando Mayorkas, ICE has deported under Title 42 more immigrants in his first year in office then were deported in four years under the previous administration. Title 42 is a Trump-era order allowing the rapid deportation of thousands of immigrants.
In the U.S. capitalist system, citizenship is not a right but a privilege given to those deemed “worthy” by the capitalist ruling class, denying them services they rightfully deserve. Meanwhile, many immigrant workers, including those without documents, are the labor backbone of the dairy industry in Wisconsin, and key in so many other industries, bringing in super profits for their bosses.
It is crucial to keep pressure on the Democrats to get citizenship for all. At same time, the fight needs to be extended to uproot the white supremacist capitalist system that seeks to exploit us all for profit.
Feature photo: Hundreds rally for immigration for all in Milwaukee on Oct. 11. Liberation photo