‘Dia Sin Latinos’ a Powerful Demonstration for Human Rights
by Amanda Zhang
On Thursday of last week, Wisconsin was forced to imagine what a world without Latinos and immigrants would look like.
Thousands of workers, estimated between 14,000 – 20,000 Latino workers, students, and allies gathered in front of the capitol to protest bills AB450/SB36 and SB 533/AB 732. The former would allow police to investigate a person’s immigration status and detain them for deportation; the latter would deny counties the ability to issue local identification cards to people who cannot access state ID and therefore receive state benefits.
Although nothing in the bill named the Latino community in particular, most agree that the bills would lead to disproportionate racial profiling in the Latino community as well as create more distrust between minority communities and the police. Critics made comparisons between Wisconsin’s proposed bills and Arizona’s SB 1070.
According to the ACLU, laws inspired by Arizona’s anti-immigration laws “invite rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans and others presumed to be “foreign” based on how they look or sound.” After decades of attempts to ease tensions between minority communities and the police, the passage of these new bills would only increase civilian distrust.
In the morning, students from Madison high schools walked out of their classes to stand in solidarity with Latino workers and community members from across Wisconsin. Many Latino-owned businesses and other supporters of the cause closed their businesses for the day to allow workers the day off to attend the hearing.
Activists standing at the tops of the Capitol steps led chants, held prayers, and invited personal testimony in both English and Spanish. Protestors at the inside of the capitol converged in the rotunda, and colorful voices echoed off the marble pillars. Because the capitol was so full, the majority of protesters remained outside on the steps and eventually began their march around the Capitol square. The protesters were lively and undeniably powerful. The collective chants of “Sí, se puede,” Yes we can, was a phrase that became common to even to those for whom Spanish had never been spoken.
Bracing the cold, a community of immigrants and allies came together to get their voices heard. The protest, organized by various pro-immigration groups including Voces de la Frontera, received both local and national coverage including Vox, Mic, and Univision. Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric of the bills, the protest was incredibly peaceful. Many of the protestors included entire families. The younger children were dressed in full snowsuits and could be found playing, running, or as one kid would have it, just lying around in the snow.
The presence of the children served to remind everyone there, that anti-immigration laws were not just about purported criminals and job thieves, but hardworking families whose children were given an opportunity at a better life because of their family’s migrations. The emblem of a monarch butterfly could be frequently seen with the words “migration is beautiful” alongside it. Speakers emphasized the role immigrants hold in creating a flourishing local economy as well as the respect they deserve simply for being human. Last week, we were reminded of the Latino and immigrant community’s impact on all aspects of our lives and just how frightening a country without Latinos would be.