In the wake of recent arrests of illegal immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents throughout the nation, it didn't take much to spread concern that the same was about to happen in southeastern Wisconsin.
Callers in to the Racine radio station WBJX, known as La Campeona ("The Champion"), reported rumors that such raids were imminent. The rumors were that the federal agents were about to investigate area Wal-Marts and a Racine produce store, where large numbers of Hispanics work and shop.
The rumor came after a large number illegal immigrants were arrested in Chicago last week at a company that manufactures wooden pallets.
While many of the rumors were proved to be false, enough alleged incidents of crackdowns were witnessed that Voces de la Frontera, a group that advocates for the rights of immigrant workers, planned a press conference to address the concerns, said group director Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
"We were able to confirm over the course of time some reports of raids taking place in schools and churches," Neumann-Ortiz told WisPolitics before the scheduled press conference "The Department of Immigration said these were false rumors, but witnesses saw people dressed like immigration officials at a church in Milwaukee and two work places, one in Milwaukee and one in Green Bay. So we have asked the U.S. attorney general, the governor, and the Milwaukee police chief to investigate."
Neumann-Ortiz said she is asking the public not to spread false rumors because she believes these are attempts to try to limit participation in a march set for 10 a.m. Monday through downtown Milwaukee. "I think it's an organized effort by anti-immigrant people, and it shows the bankruptcy of their own ideas by their breaking the law," she said. "It shows they are trying to terrorize the Latino community."
The May 1 rally is planned to coincide with a similar nationwide effort to attract attention to the problems facing undocumented workers in the U.S. The march is scheduled to promote a solution by Congress to many issues facing immigrants, said Neumann-Ortiz.
The march should draw about 30,000, she said. It will proceed through the streets of Downtown and end at Veterans Park on the lakefront. She said there will be speakers from diverse immigrant communities, including traditional ones like the Irish and Germans, and more recent groups of immigrants, like the Hmong.
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