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Art build in Milwaukee creates banners for nationwide “torch relay” march in support of immigrant rights

Over the first weekend of March, Voces de la Frontera Action hosted a massive art build to paint the banners for the 34 Fair Immigration Rights Movement (FIRM) Network organizations that will be taking part in the “March to Victory – Relay Across America” to demand relief, recovery, and citizenship for all immigrants in the forthcoming COVID-19 reconciliation bills.

Voces de los Artistas (VDLA), the VDLFA artist collective, hosted the art build at the INOVA Gallery of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 5, 6, and 7. Everyone who participated wore masks at all times, and project was limited to 25 people or less at all times, to follow COVID-19 capacity guidelines.

The banners created displayed the message: “Stop Deportations; Citizenship for All; COVID Recovery for All” and also included graphics of the supporting organizations. The large signage will be used during the “relay torch” that each state will pass during 6 weeks of national actions. Immigration advocacy organizations across the country plan to put direct pressure on their state congressional representatives to vote for immigrant rights in upcoming legislation and, and to support a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented.

In addition to members of VDLA, members of the Voces de la Frontera Essential Workers Rights Network attended the build to help paint banners and share their stories of what inclusion in the forthcoming reconciliation bills would mean for them and their families.

Also helping with the art build were members of the Voces de la Frontera Essential Workers Rights Network, who shared their personal stories of what legal recognition would mean for them and their families. One example was 23-year-old Alondra García, who attended the art build with her younger sister and her father.

“My sister and I have had DACA for the past 7 years. It has been interesting because you’d think you’d get the full experience of being an American, but that is not the case,” added García. “We can’t apply for loans, we can’t apply for FAFSA, we can’t vote. And with all the fear of our DACA status constantly being at risk under Trump, it was hard.”

García migrated from Mexico to Milwaukee with her sister and her mother, and were later joined by her father. She also has one U.S. citizen sister that was born after the family moved. García and her middle sister both received DACA in 2014, and are now in the renewal process and waiting for their work permits. An essential worker in the education field, García is a bilingual 2nd grade teacher at Allenfield Elementary. She teaches her students in a bicultural environment, and makes a special effort to educate the children about both their Latinx heritage and the Black and Brown Lives Matter movement.

“With COVID it has been difficult to see the clear division in my own family because of immigration status: my sister and I did receive stimulus checks, but our parents did not,” said García. “My parents are hard workers and they deserve relief as well – that is why I stand with Voces de la Frontera Action in demanding that all immigrants, including those who file taxes with an ITIN number, get COVID relief and that all immigrant essential workers, Dreamers, TPS holders and their families have a pathway to citizenship.”

The “March to Victory – Relay Across America” will start in the northwest corner of the country in Washington State on March 17 and will end in Washington DC on May 1, featuring a national May Day protest. Allied organizations who will be participating in the national caravan and May Day protest include FIRM Network organizations from 8 States from Alabama to Wisconsin, and Washington DC.

Voces de la Frontera Action will also host a statewide caravan in Wisconsin in the second half of April to put pressure on state senators and house representatives. The state caravan will commence in Kenosha on April 11 and end in Milwaukee on May Day.

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Joe Brusky

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