Last year, more than 40,000 concerned residents flocked to Madison to oppose legislation that would hurt Madison’s status as a sanctuary city as well as a bill that would make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to have basic things like State identification.
It was a victorious effort that brought members of the community together to have discussions about what to do with the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment happening nationally.
Then, when President Trump was elected, concerned clergy and community outreach workers knew it was time to act.
Voces De La Frontera, a community organization that helps empower people at a grassroots level, wanted to help establish a permanent position that would be housed at Centro Hispano and work with churches and other sanctuaries to help people be who might face deportation or other immigration-related issues.
Forward Community Investments has given a grant to Voces de la Frontera to help create that position. The grant is part of FCI’s Game Changer program, which gives a $3,000 grant to an organization in Wisconsin working for racial equity each month. The Game Changer program only requires a short video and one-page form to apply.
“We’ve had a presence (in Madison) for several years now,” said Nancy Flores of Voces de la Frontera, who was instrumental in organizing the position and the FCI grant. “But it has never been as organized as it is now. This is what came out of the Day without Latinos when we had a big day of action in Madison. There was a lot of interest in taking a leadership role. We defeated that anti-immigration bill then and it was evident that people in Madison wanted to continue with this work. So we were able to raise $60,000 in individual donations alone and when we got momentum we put a grant proposal out to Forward Community Investments.”
Flores said that the focus of the grant from Forward Community Investments will be to have a person in a permanent position who can help coordinate educating people about their rights as it pertains to immigration; help provide legal service to people who are arrested by ICE; and coordinate a rapid response team in the community to respond to ICE actions.
Abril Moreno has been hired to fill that position. Her challenge will be to channel all of the work the different Clergy and activists around the community are already doing into one, streamlined entity.
“Right now she’s based in Centro Hispano,” Flores said. “She’s been setting up one on one meetings with people who have a stake in this work and other allies we would have, just to make sure she introduces herself to people.”
Flores says that they have not witnessed a noticeable rise in ICE actions or deportations despite the amount of bluster coming from the Federal Government recently. But, she said, there is ample concern around the community because of the status of DACA. If DACA were to completely fail, there could be extraordinary upheaval in the community.
“Under the Obama administration there was a priority on deporting people with violent crimes or other criminal elements. President Trump wrote a memo saying they would disregard that, so now literally anyone can be a target for deportation. It is very alarming for the community.”
Moreno’s role will be to organize spaces in the community where people can come have conversations about what is going on in the community. Recipients of DACA will have a place to talk about what their issues are and information about what people’s rights are will also be discussed in open public forums.
Flores says that Voces de la Frontera is well-known throughout the city of Milwaukee for being the entity to go to if deportation or other ICE actions are taking place. She says Voces is seeking to build that same reputation around Madison.
“Right now, the need is to provide people with information. People need to know their rights and we need a rapid response team so immigrants in Madison know there is a network that can help them in their time of need.”