On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in an attempt to secure funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico. On Monday, a crowd of about 70 gathered in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda to protest the move, and their message was clear in their first chant: “Trump is the real emergency.”
“Our democracy is hanging by a thread,” said Matthew Rothschild, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told the crowd. “You know, we’ve been told since we were little kids what a great system of checks and balances we have. Well, guess what? It’s not so great.”
The event protested what organizers termed Trump’s “fake” national emergency and called for Congress to reverse Trump’s declaration and limit funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Customs and Border Protection.
The protest was organized by Indivisible Madison, a chapter of a “nationwide resistance organization,” and put on in collaboration with MoveOn. The Madison rally was one of over 250 MoveOn events held throughout the country Monday.
Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization, and Our Wisconsin Revolution, a self-described democratic-populist organization, also hosted the event.
Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border Friday, calling it “an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” Congress had just voted to allocate $1.375 billion for border fencing, far short of Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion. The move, which was challenged by lawsuits filed Monday, could give Trump access to a total of $8 billion for a wall.
Organizers of Monday’s event asked U.S. representatives to co-sponsor a joint resolution to overturn the emergency declaration, though such a measure would reportedly need to overcome a presidential veto. Protesters also asked senators to co-sponsor legislation, known as the RAIDER Act, which aims to stop Trump from taking funds for the border wall from money slated for military construction and disaster relief.
MoveOn senior advisor Ben Wikler specifically called on Sen. Ron Johnson to vote to stop the emergency measure. Johnson appeared on “Meet the Press” this weekend and said that while he’s worried about the precedent such a national emergency sets, he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote.
The groups behind the event also want to “defund Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda,” by slashing ICE and CBP funding and “hold these agencies accountable for their abuses of power from deaths in detention to family separation to tear gassing women and children on the border and their budget offenses,” according to a press release.
Wikler pointed to the Muslim travel ban, ICE activity under Trump’s presidency and Trump’s rhetoric and said the wall falls in line with Trump’s policy of “waging a war against immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, basically anyone who doesn’t look like him.”
Linda Kessel, lead organizer for Indivisible Madison, spoke on behalf of Karen Menendez Coller, the executive director of Centro Hispano.
Kessel said she asked Menendez Coller Monday morning if she would like to speak at the event. Coller said she and her community are exhausted.
“They’ve been going through this for two years now. They’re worn out, they’re feeling very hurt. And she felt like she couldn’t do this again,” Kessel said. “She said we need to pick up the fight for them.”
Nada Elmikashfi, a “black, Muslim, immigrant women,” and chair of Next Gen America UW-Madison chapter, reminded the crowd that “the only differentiating factor between us and those families seeking asylum is an extraordinary amount of luck.”
She came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Sudan after her father won the diversity visa lottery in the 1990s. After moving to Madison, she didn’t have to worry about soldiers, bombs or her chance of getting an education as a girl, she said.
“There is a certain amount of guilt you feel when you come from somewhere far away and somewhere hurting. What made me better than all my cousins and all my friends back home in Sudan? What made me more deserving of this life than those refugee kids stuck in camps across the globe?” she said. “There is nothing we have done to deserve where we were born.”