Traffic at the intersection of 6th and Main Streets came to a halt for a quarter hour on March 5 as protesters in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) demanded a resolution from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
DACA was due to expire on March 5, but federal courts intervened and issued rulings that temporarily blocked President Donald Trump from ending the program that offers protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children.
“We took bold action to raise the pressure on Paul Ryan,” said Luís Tapia, a 16 year old high school junior from Racine. “Six months ago, I was going to apply for DACA, but then Trump took that chance away from me and millions of others. Now many of my friends and neighbors are losing their protections. On this national day of action, thousands of people around the country are standing in support of immigrant youth. My family, my friends, and I deserve a permanent legislative solution that allows us to stay and continue to contribute to this place we call home. We need the clean Dream Act now.”
Over 16,000 young immigrants have lost protection from deportation since Trump ended DACA, in September 2017. Responding to the deadline, the immigrant rights movement declared March 5 a national day of action to fight for the Dream Act.
The focus of action in Wisconsin took place at Monument Square in Racine, just down the street from Speaker Ryan’s office. A total of 23 community members blocked the street in an act of civil disobedience to demand that Speaker Ryan allow a vote on a clean Dream Act.
“We cannot be silent on DACA,” said State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, one of the 23 arrested. “We will march. We will call. We will email & tweet. We will sit in nonviolent protest. And we will vote. You’re either on the side of humanity or against it.”
The demonstration included hundreds of students who walked out of classes from Riverside, South Division, and Reagan High Schools in Milwaukee, and were joined by students from Racine Horlick High School.
“We walked out of our schools because Speaker Ryan has the power to move the Dream Act to a vote, but he has chosen not to,” said Yesica Ramirez, a 17 year old junior at Horlick High School in Racine. “Insead, he is supporting the most anti-immigrant bill proposed, the Goodlatte bill. By supporting the Goodlatte bill, Speaker Ryan has become anti-immigrant, and that is unacceptable. We are fighting for the Dream Act because we need a permanent solution, and permanent status, in the only country we know as home.”
Also among those taken into custody were Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy West, and two Democratic challengers to Speaker Ryan’s seat in the November election, Randy Bryce of Caledonia and Cathy Myers of Janesville. Both campaigns actively tweeted about the situation on their Twitter accounts.
“Today, @IronStache was arrested protesting outside of @SpeakerRyan’s office demanding Congress pass a clean DREAM Act now. Sign our petition. Stand with @IronStache and 690,000 DACA recipients. We need a clean DREAM Act now,” stated the Twitter account of Randy Bryce.
“Cathy was just arrested for standing with @voces_milwaukee & #WI01 immigrant families to demand that @SpeakerRyan call a vote on the #DreamActNow,” stated the Twitter account of Cathy Myers.
Ryan’s Racine office was closed during the protest from security concerns. A spokesman for the Speaker released a statement after the protest:
“The Speaker appreciates those making their voices heard today. While court decisions have pushed the deadline on this issue until much later in the year, the speaker remains committed to finding a permanent solution for the DACA population. He continues to work with his colleagues to reach consensus on a plan that protects these young people while also strengthening border security and better enforcing our immigration laws.”
Voces de la Frontera started an online Crowdfunding campaign to help the 23 community leaders arrested during the protest to pay the fines for their Dream Act Civil Disobedience.