On Tuesday night, President Trump dedicated a significant portion of his State of the Union address to immigration, and one local expert on the issue, Madison immigration attorney Aissa Olivarez, was sitting in the audience.
Olivarez was invited by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, to attend the address. Last year, Pocan invited Randy Bryce, a Democrat challenging then-House Speaker Paul Ryan for his seat. This year, Pocan highlighted Olivarez’s work to “keep families together.”
“Over the last two years, the Trump Administration has manufactured a humanitarian crisis on the southern border and escalated detentions of immigrants with either no prior criminal record, or with minor offenses such as traffic violations …. Aissa’s work is more important than ever and that is why I have asked her to join me for this year’s State of the Union,” Pocan said in a statement.
Olivarez, an immigration lawyer for Community Immigration Law Center in Madison, was previously featured in a Cap Times cover story on local Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in September. She's part of the local Immigration Enforcement Rapid Response Team, which aims to provide families affected by deportation with social services and legal support.
In September, ICE detained 20 people in Dane County and a total of 83 in Wisconsin over the span of a few days.
“What we saw that weekend was very different, and we began to see people who were being arrested for having no status without any kind of criminal record or for simple misdemeanors,” Olivarez said in a video Pocan posted to Twitter.
Olivarez and Erin Barbato, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, worked for hours on behalf of detainees. They called ICE to see where the detainees had been taken, started intakes to see who could be eligible for relief and worked with other immigration attorneys to find out who could take cases pro-bono or at a low cost, referring families who could afford it to private attorneys.
“My goal as an attorney is to let people know they are not alone in this fight for their rights. I’m excited to join Congressman Pocan for the State of the Union and to raise awareness of the many challenges that immigrants face under our current legal system and under this Administration,” Olivarez said in statement.