Salvador Rojas and his wife Rafaela Flores came to America in 2001 to flee violence in their hometown. They settled in Milwaukee.
Although he has no criminal record, Rojas spent about eight years going through the deportation process before being granted a new visa. Ever since then, the couple's son has been afraid the family might be deported, they said through a translator.
“His father who has no criminal record, not even a traffic citation, was taken in by immigration. So he knows that immigration is not just about pursuing people with a criminal record,” Flores said.
Flores and Rojas told their story at a press event Tuesday to explain why they will be taking part in an upcoming Day Without Latinos protest event.
On Monday, Feb. 13, "A Day without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees" will take place in Milwaukee, a follow-up to a similar protest in Madison last year. It’s a direct response to President Donald Trump’s policies and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's intention to partner with federal immigration authorities.
Voces de la Frontera, a Wisconsin organization that advocates for immigrant rights, is organizing the event and is calling for statewide and national support.
Voces is asking workers and students to leave work and school for the march, summed up as “No work, no school, no purchases,” to show the positive contributions immigrants make.
At last year’s Day Without Latinos and Immigrants event, also in February, an estimated 20,000 people marched to the Capitol in Madison to protest two immigration bills they considered discriminatory.
This year, the march will take place at 11 a.m., starting at the Voces offices at 1027 S. 5th St. and proceeding to the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
Buses will leave at 9 a.m. from Centro Hispano in Madison to take participants to the march in Milwaukee. Voces is coordinating buses from several other cities including Racine, Waukesha, Appleton and Manitowoc.
The march is a response to two events: Trump’s executive order regarding interior enforcement of immigration and a recent Facebook announcement by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Last Friday, Clarke said he would enroll his department in the federal 287g program, which creates a partnership between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Local officers would act as deputy ICE agents. The stated aim of the protest is to stop Clarke from implementing 287g.
“It is a very specific call to action,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “It is not just a march, it is a general community-wide strike and it is something we’ve used at critical moments when we feel there’s a real danger.”
That danger affects not just the immigrant community, but extends to issues of legalizing racial profiling and basic constitutional rights, she said.
At the recent “United We Stand” event at Monona Terrace in support of immigrants, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney told the crowd that when ICE called him asking to implement 287g and make his deputes ICE agents, he responded by saying, “Hell no.”
Voces aims to make a similar statement in Milwaukee.
“We are drawing the line in the stand here, and saying, ‘No’ to 287g,” said Neumann-Ortiz. “(287g) would really dramatically change the situation here for us in Milwaukee county.”
Several years ago, Rojas was the victim of a crime, and said he doesn’t want to see a day when people refuse to report crimes for fear of the police.
“There are crimes in our neighborhoods, and people would be afraid to report them if Sheriff Clarke makes this decision,” Rojas said.