Today, thousands of Wisconsin Latinos have skipped school and work to protest AB450/SB369 and AB723/SB533 – two proposed laws meant to restrain the immigrant community. AB450 would enable police officers to ask people for their immigration status and to detain them for immigration infractions, even if they are not being charged with a crime. AB723 would make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to get municipal IDs.
So far, AB723 has been passed by both the Assembly and Senate, and has reached Gov. Scott Walker’s desk for approval – the last step before it becomes law. AB450, on the other hand, has only been passed by the Assembly, and it is still awaiting Senate approval, according to the Milwaukee – Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Businesses are closing down in solidarity, and a rally is taking place in Madison, with people from across the state in attendance, Fox 6 Now reports.
By removing themselves from the workforce, the immigrant community aims to show how “A Day Without Latinos” would adversely affect the state. Since 2000, the Latino population in the Midwest state has increased 46.8 percent, and though they make up just five percent of the population, they are the fastest growing minority in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Avoiding laws like AB450 and AB723 is one reason undocumented immigrants have moved to Wisconsin from other states. In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, a law that gives police officers the right to check the immigration status of someone who is arrested or detained. After the Supreme Court chose to uphold this provision of the controversial law, many Latinos chose to leave Arizona.
“This law was originally designed so that undocumented immigrants would be afraid of the police, be afraid of coming to ask for help, feel themselves to be a target and, in that sense, I think that the law was successful, given that some of them have left the state voluntarily,” Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor told Efe in 2014.
If Latinos felt threatened enough to leave Wisconsin, dairy industry would be particularly hurt. About 40 percent of workers on dairy farms are immigrants, according to a University of Wisconsin study. If immigrants move to other states, there wouldn’t be enough people willing to milk cows, meaning that some farmers would have to quit the industry.
“We want to send a strong message to the state Legislature and to Governor Walker that we do not want to see anti-immigrant bills passed. You cannot have a dairy industry in Wisconsin without immigrant labor,” said Voces de la Frontera Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
Following 2006’s Great American Boycott – where people didn’t show up to work or school to prove that immigrants are necessary to the labor force – Wisconsin Latinos have taken to the Capitol in Madison to try to persuade Gov. Walker and others from passing the two discriminatory bills.
Check out what Wisconsin’s “A Day Without Latinos” looked like:
People of all ages came out
In two hours, the Capitol building was packed
People protested despite the cold
Others started early
People took buses into Madison
It wasn't just Latinos who protested