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Photo Essay: Milwaukee Gathers in Unity for Human Dignity

Refugees from Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle-East, and Europe, as well as various religious leaders, legal experts, elected officials, and advocates spoke during a public gathering of the Unity for Human Dignity Coalition (U4HD).

Held on February 7 at the Carmen High School of Science & Technology, with an audience of a couple hundred in attendance, the event addressed many serious concerns within the community regarding President Trump’s executive order and its impact on immigrants and refugees.

These images capture highlights from the event, which also included a special ceremony where Mayor Tom Barrett signed the Common Council resolution stating the City of Milwaukee’s opposition to the Presidential travel ban.

“I’ve been involved in public office for several decades now, and this time is different from any time I’ve ever served during. The main reason it is so different, is I’m seeing visible fear from people who live in our community. I think this is a serious issue. The fear that I see, particularly in our Hispanic community right now, it’s real. Our city government is here to let you know that we understand your fears, and we don’t want you to be fearful.”

– Mayor Tom Barrett, City of Milwaukee

“My favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. He freed the slaves. I believe President Donald Trump can do the same thing. He can free the refugees of Central America, and all the refugees. Please hear our voice. Thank you and God bless America.”

– Raul Ortiz, Child Refugee, Honduras

“When he was in Syria and the war started, he didn’t believe it was real. It was like a story he would hear at night from his father. But that story became reality when his village was invaded. People were rounded up without discrimination. If they spoke out and resisted, they were met with bullets. It didn’t matter if they were woman, man, or child. One night when he was sleeping at his aunt’s house, soldiers suddenly burst in and grabbed his aunt. They accused her of supplying information to the rebel army. She pleaded for her life, but they tied her up and burned her alive in the room. The soldiers attempted to burn the house down with the children still inside, but the neighbors were able to sneak the kids out. Shortly after that they fled on foot to Jordan, where they were met with open arms and greeted by the Jordanian people at the border. But they set their sights on America because it was the only nation that valued the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and equality. He was so grateful for all the support he has received in Milwaukee, and along the journey getting here.”

– Translation from (Name withheld due to privacy), Refugee, Syria

“When I arrived in Sarajevo a little less than two weeks after September 11th, because the trip had already been scheduled, some women learned that we are Americans. They came running up to us with tears in their eyes. They said ‘we understand your country isn’t perfect, but the ideals of your country are extraordinary, and they are an inspiration to us.’ There is no religion created that has a monopoly on good or bad behavior. But when you start focusing on what divides us, you’re missing the point of this country.”

– Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive

“Once we arrived in America our journey did not end. Not everything was perfect, our journey continued. For my family and many other Hmong families, it was a difficult time adjusting to a completely foreign country, a new language, new ways of doing things in a new culture, and new ways of surviving. But by the Grace of God, and because of the helpful hands of many people and organizations, we were able to get through each day. I’m able to stand before you today as a testimony to how great America is. I came as a Hmong refugee in 1981, an immigrant, and was allowed the opportunity to pursue the foundational principles of America. So my success is precisely because we have held to those principles. I’m proud to call America my home.”

– Dr. May Vang, Ph.D., Hmong Refugee, Thailand

“Those people who were born in this land, descendants of immigrants and refugees, and those people whose ancestors were brought here on slave ships, should oppose this executive action. It bans refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, halts funding for sanctuary cities, and expands detention for immigrants and asylum-seekers. These actions betray the values that are etched into our country’s foundation, to welcome in the stranger, to provide refuge for the persecuted. To gather, as Emma Lazarus said in her famous words, the ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ and to be a beacon of hope.”

– Elana Kahn, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation

© Photo

Lee Matz

About The Author

Lee Matz

Former Creative Director and Photojournalist for the Milwaukee Business Journal, Lee brings his years of international experience as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe. His list of awards include top honors from the Milwaukee Press Club. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his news reports.

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