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Mario Garcia Sierra

Mario Garcia Sierra

When we leave our loved ones in the morning, we expect to come home to them at night. This is particularly true for children. This unspoken truth is the foundation of safety and security.

That foundation was shaky for Wisconsin immigrant families during four tense days in September when armed federal agents conducted an unannounced operation. They detained 83 Wisconsin residents, including 20 in Dane County. Only 44 had criminal convictions. Other residents were detained for offenses that posed no danger to public safety, including those whose offense is a byproduct of our broken immigration system.

Some children came home to find a loved one was gone. Some children witnessed their loved ones taken from their homes by federal agents. Some children had opened the door to agents, unaware of how their world was about to change.

The agency responsible is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), formed after 9/11 to protect national security. ICE previously has taken actions to arrest criminals in the Madison area, following the agreed-on protocol for advance notice to local law enforcement. This step was designed to keep communication lines open and the community safer. In September, ICE did not follow protocol with the Madison Police Department, which includes a call to a specific number staffed 24/7 by a ranking member of the force.

Instead of keeping the peace, ICE created panic. Instead of protecting the most vulnerable, ICE traumatized children. Instead of sharing information with local law enforcement, ICE worked in secret.

As a result, parents were afraid to take their children to school, to go to work or even go to the grocery store. While parents remained strong for their children, and while Centro Hispano staff and allies rallied in support, no one should have to live in fear of federal agents summarily tearing their family apart.

No parent should have to teach a child what to do if they suddenly disappear.

Instead of threatening hard-working families who contribute so much to communities across the United States and right here in Wisconsin, let’s support fixing our broken immigration system.

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Garcia Sierra is president of the Centro Hispano of Dane County Board of Directors. The rest of the board signed on in support of this column: www.micentro.org.

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