Voces de La Frontera sent a national delegation of 41 immigrant essential workers and their families to Washington DC to be part of a national May Day march, and to mark the end of a cross-country caravan that covered more than 40 states to promote immigration reform.

Despite COVID-19 fears, Milwaukee advocates at the May Day rally in DC delivered a strong message to Congress at the steps of the Capitol building, challenging them to deliver on the promise of citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

“We stand with immigrant essential workers and demand they be treated as the heroes they are,” said Livia-Rowell Ortiz, reading an official statement from Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera Action. “In the 2020 elections, we delivered a major victory, defeating a dangerous fascist administration and ushered in a majority of Democrats in the United States Congress. On May 1st, we march to demand that politicians that benefited from our efforts use their power to include legalization of workers in the second pandemic relief bill that will be voted on mid-September.”

Simultaneously in Milwaukee, more than 1,500 members of Voces de La Frontera and allies marched 2.5 miles from their new statewide headquarters at 7th and Mitchell Street to the Federal Building downtown on Wisconsin Avenue. In addition to reiterating the same demands as their counterparts in Washington DC, they delivered a “Horses Ass Award” to Senator Ron Johnson for his alignment with the radical far right, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and his disregard for local families in need of pandemic relief.

“We immigrant essential workers struggle the same as everyone has been struggling in this pandemic, but more. We are right on the frontlines with our jobs, putting ourselves at risk,” said Eduardo Perea, a construction worker in Milwaukee. “We deserve the resources we need to continue doing our jobs, and safely. We are at the frontlines and we have managed to keep working and contributing to the country, despite not receiving any stimulus checks from the government.”

Alondra Garcia, a DACA recipient and bilingual teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools, had a single question about why immigrants still could not benefit from the Constitutional right of freedom afford to others.

“We can make the United States a place where ‘we the people’ includes all of us. We can work together to make our country a home where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential, no exceptions,” said Garcia. “Our families must have a roadmap to citizenship, not be treated as expendable and deportable – because immigrants are essential.”

Following the Washington DC and Milwaukee rallies, anti-immigrant Republicans on Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee removed provisions from the state’s budget proposal. Governor Tony Evers had restored access for immigrants to obtain driver licenses and state IDs, as well as tuition equity for Wisconsin immigrant youth. Voces mobilized its members and allies to travel to Madison on May 6, and again made their case before the Joint Finance Committee.

“There was a time in Wisconsin when we could have drivers licenses, but that was taken away from us in 2007,” said Eduardo Perea. “Not having a driver’s license makes it extremely hard for us to do our jobs and our daily routines like taking our kids to school or going to the store. We face discrimination when we are looking for jobs, and fear deportation when we are just trying to do our jobs. We are asking for the opportunity to continue doing the jobs we already do, but safer and better.”

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Joe Brusky