After a presidential campaign that included plenty of anti-immigrant rhetoric, some Madison Latinos were afraid and uncertain after Donald Trump took office last January. That was exacerbated by Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Adding to their worries: bills in the Wisconsin Legislature that would effectively ban so-called sanctuary cities.
“What a tough year for our families,” said Fabiola Hamdan, named Dane County’s first immigrant affairs specialist this year.
Last week, Hamdan and other Latino leaders gathered at the last Latino Action Support Network (LaSUP) meeting of the year, where Latino-focused service organizations gave year-end updates. They agreed the national political climate made for a difficult year.
But Hamdan said the event demonstrated “how much we appreciate each other.”
“I’m extremely grateful for everybody here,” said Karen Menendez Coller, director of Centro Hispano. “We've had a year of crisis. I’ve never cried as much in my life as I have this year.”
“The reports just show the depth of the work that’s being done within the Latino community and the enormity of the challenges," said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who attended the event.
Those challenges include “everything from education to health and, of course, the always dreadful concerns about what’s going to happen in regards to immigration and the uncertainty presented by the Trump administration,” Soglin said.
Centro Hispano will be "trying to go back to normal,” in 2018 Coller said, continuing its mission to empower and support youth. In the last year, Centro Hispano started a summer farmer’s market, expanded its wellness program and got an interior design makeover compliments of Design for a Difference. After the DACA announcement, Centro made a last-minute switch to its fall fundraiser to allow people to attend for free and featured immigration-centric art.
Coller is also co-chair of a new Dane County Immigration and Refugee Task Force that aims to build trust between law enforcement officers and immigrant and refugee communities. Coller received the inaugural “March for Justice” honor, a $15,000 award named in memory of Nan Cheney, a Madison peace activist.
The Latino Children and Family Counsel hosts an ever-growing annual El Dia de Los Ninos event, which doubles as a party to celebrate kids and Latino culture and an opportunity to provide parents with social service connections. The group also hosted monthly workshops for families at the Catholic Multicultural Center. The counsel's work was recognized by Joining Forces for Families this year.
Sal Carranza, president of the Latino Education Council, said this year, the organization focused on supporting students affected by the termination of DACA protections. The council also started providing one-on-one advising to help students plan our their education and careers.
“They have options, but they need to know what those options are,” he said.
Latino Professional Association aims to develop a Latino leadership pipeline, which is currently lacking across Dane County, said president Tania Ibarra. Ibarra is stepping down as president, and the community can learn more about the organization and meet new leadership at an event on Jan. 11.
In the coming year, the association is looking to expand their talent coaching program. The association is completely made of an all-volunteer board, Ibarra said, and they are working to come gain funding so they don’t have to rely completely on volunteer hours.
Voces de la Frontera is committed to protecting and advocating for the rights of refugees and immigrants. Leadership feels the Trump administration has “basically declared war against Latinos and refugees,” said Mario Garcia Sierra, a Madison volunteer with Voces.
The organization is based in Milwaukee, but this year they reached a “huge milestone,” Sierra said, as they were able to raise enough money to hire a Madison coordinator and open a Madison branch. Abril Moreno has been the coordinator for three months, and during that time Voces has recruited about 20 new members to the over 600 members in the Madison area.
Moreno recently went on a trip to D.C. with area youth and parents to demonstrate in favor of a DREAM Act. Voces has also been organizing against Senate Bill 275 and Assembly Bill 190, bills that would effectively ban sanctuary cities in Wisconsin.
Orgullo Latinx LGBT+ works to create a safe space and respect for Latino LGBT+ individuals in Dane County.
“It’s really, really, really hard, and we’re not there yet,” said Baltazar De Anda Santana, director of the organization.
Undocumented individuals face stigma from outside the Latino community, and LGBT+ individuals face harassment within the Latino community, he said. Latinx is working to become a nonprofit, exciting as there are “very few groups in Madison that work with the LGBT community,” he said.
Orgullo partnered with UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence and other area organizations to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The Latino Health Council highlighted their annual events: a mental health community workshop, a Latino health fair, and a teen health bash. This year, the council put on a breast cancer awareness event with training for beauty stylists to ask inform clients about breast cancer prevention.
The council also provides mentorship and support to Latino youth who are interested in medical or nursing school. In collaboration with the Latino Children and Family Counsel, the Catholic Multicultural Center and Centro Hispano, they hosted an event that helped community members put together an emergency safety plan in case of family separation or deportation.
Like many other organizations in the room, the council struggles for funding, said Shiva Bidar, a Madison alder and co-chair of the Latino Health Council. They are the only organization focused on Latino health, and every event they host brings 200 to 250 people, but they have “very little funding" to make the events happen.
This year, UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence established a 24/7 Spanish crisis hotline. They continue to support victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as hold men's groups and Voces Unidos groups at local high schools.
The Latino Academy of Workforce Development offers language training, job skills training and GED courses, has been graduating an increasing number of students from their GED courses. With just one graduate in 2015, 11 students graduated in 2017 and the academy is anticipating 18 graduates in 2018. The academy will also be opening a new location at Leopold Elementary School.
The Catholic Multicultural Center hired a new immigration lawyer this year, and as of November, had provided 1,812 food pantry visits, over 2,000 showers for the homeless, and meals seven days a week.